Monday, November 17, 2008

Airtrack and North Sheen Crossing

I picked up last week a flyer from the LibDems at North Sheen station, to read that at my great pleasure Susan Kramer has obtained that the footbridge to the South side of the track will be rebuilt.

This is not only a practical issue, as with the new train schedules the level crossing in Manor road is down a a lot (read in the RTT: Level crossing bottlenecks choking Richmond, apparently it could be 75% of the time in the future!) it is also a safety issue. Indeed, I'm glad to get someone chiming in on something I've raised over two years ago:

Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon discussed safety concerns to pedestrians brought about by the delays.She said: “People get so frustrated waiting for the barriers thatsome have been tempted to go round them and run across the tracks.“Children have been seen doing this and it’s just an accident waiting to happen.”

It's also unfair for local residents: we get all the congestion but only four trains per hour at peak time. At least, we should get four trains per hour off-peak as well.

(plus, let's fine stationary cars too: Stuck at a level crossing? Turn off the engine or pay £20 fine - The Times)

What's the link with this and Airtrack, the plan to improve Heathrow's access by rail? At first sight, it looks like a good idea, and I am always supportive for better public transport.

However, it's hard to read without being suspicious of BAA's intentions, here's my take:

  1. BAA and BA build a new terminal in Heathrow (despite massive local opposition, read on Heathrow runway debate a 'sham'), claiming it's vital for the economy (without supporting this with any proof) and despite London being served by 4 other airports...
  2. Oh, shoot, access to Heathrow by public transport isn't that good and, as opposed to what's going on the continent, there's no high-speed rail link.
  3. And, bugger, if they extend the airport, they won't meet the new EU emission criteria, even with BAA's imaginary green’ jumbo (The Times).
  4. Easy: they just improve the public transport and create a car-free zone around the airport.
  5. Expensive? Not really, they say let's just extend the existing train lines, charge more for parking and create a road tax on the model of Red Ken's London Congestion Charge.
The snag? The train network, for not having received significant investments in the last 30 years, is completely saturated in the South East of England. And those trains to Heathrow, they will have to run somewhere. Like through Richmond...

This is why I oppose Airtrack, unless they actually invest significantly to increase rail capacity: North Sheen should be buried underground, a car park created on top to encourage people to park and take the train and we should see 8 trains an hour.

You can make your views heard on Thursday

Read my other posts on the North Sheen footbridge and those on Heathrow Expansion.

And also: MPs attack Airtrack (RTT)

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