Improving public transport access to London's airports
4 October 2017 | Author: Janet Cooke, Chief Executive, London TravelWatch
In a growing and congested city, and to make best use of aviation capacity, it is really important that passengers can easily access airports by public transport.
However, our research has shown major shortcomings in surface access for each of London's airports. This was undermining the ability of air passengers to fully benefit from competition between airlines and airports.
As a result, over the past few years, we have argued on behalf of passengers for improvements to surface access to London's airports which will provide them with more choice and better value for money, making it much more attractive to use public transport to get to London's airports.
London Luton Airport (LLA) is a good example of how improved public transport can bring significant benefits to passengers and help smaller regional airports to make the most of their existing capacity. Despite being the fastest-growing major London airport, it is the only one without a direct express-style rail service. There is a chance to change this however, in the form of the new East Midlands rail franchise agreement.
As the Government consults on the new franchise, it brings the needs of passengers using public transport to access LLA sharply into focus.
Currently, the proportion of air passengers using public transport to get to LLA is the lowest of London's airports – in 2016 just 15 per cent of passengers made the journey by rail. This is despite the good location and wide range of destinations served.
One of the ways which smaller regional airports can make the most of their capacity is by using an integrated transport solution and we support the new Mass Passenger Transit system which would link Luton Airport Parkway (LAP) with the terminal building. This would be comparable to the arrangements at Gatwick and the pod system at Heathrow.
On top of this investment, it is essential that the Department for Transport (DfT) commits to providing more train services from central London in the new East Midlands franchise. We support LLA's campaign to secure four fast trains per hour, between LAP and London St Pancras as opposed to the reduction of long-distance inter-city services included in the franchise consultation document published by the DfT.
Extending Oyster Pay As You Go and Contactless payments to LLA would also both encourage people to take the train to the airport and reduce confusion amongst passengers, particularly tourists, who often receive penalty fares when trying to travel using these payment methods.
Having recently helped to secure the extension of Oyster/Contactless to Gatwick Airport and the resulting increase in journey numbers, we see the next logical step to be extending this payment method to LLA, Stansted and Heathrow. This would also help contribute to the Mayor of London's draft transport strategy objectives to increase public transport use in London and improve air quality in the capital.
We will continue to put the case for improving public transport access to all London's airports, including in our responses to rail franchise consultations and hope that opportunities are taken to improve the travel experience to LLA in the new East Midlands rail franchise.
In the longer term, we would like to see a new interchange station at West Hampstead on the Chiltern line. This would benefit passengers wishing to access Gatwick and Luton from locations like Amersham, Harrow and Wembley as well as giving access to passengers travelling to other airports as they would only have to change once instead of making multiple changes or travelling by road as they currently have to.
As air traffic volumes grow, public transport improvement is more necessary than ever, particularly if future growth is not to be jeopardised.