The government’s Airports Commission is being urged to back a £620 million rail improvement scheme that would cut journey times from London to Stansted by almost a fifth.
The proposals being put forward by business group London First include lifting speed restrictions on certain parts of the track, which its believes would bring an additional 1.2 million people within an hour’s journey of the airport.
Stansted handled 17.5 million passengers in the year to March but has planning permission to accommodate 35 million without building a second runway.
The proposal to cut journey times to less than 40 minutes from 47 minutes at present would also generate some £1.2 billion in benefits for the UK economy, according to London First.
The rail package, which has been devised by consultants at The Nichols Group, would not require the construction of a new line but involves improvements such as the addition of “passing loops”, where fast trains would be able to pass slower commuter services. Technology, which can help rail operators better anticipate delays on the line, should also be introduced, according to London First.
If adopted, the improvements would mean around 2 million people could reach Stansted within an hour by rail or coach – roughly the same number who currently live within Heathrow’s catchment area, the Daily Telegraph reported.
London First argues that any new runways in the southeast are at least a decade away as the Airports Commission will not deliver its final recommendations until after the General Election in 2015.
The group is urging the Commission to improve rail links to existing airports with spare capacity as an interim measure.
London First chief executive Baroness Jo Valentine said: “We are at least a decade away from new runways serving London. We have no choice but to make more use of the assets we have to improve Britain’s air links to global markets.
“Stansted has spare runway capacity. A rail link on a par with those to Heathrow, Gatwick and other airports would spur competition, giving Stansted a better chance to attract new airlines and passengers.
“It’s time to bring Stansted even closer into London’s orbit and help it realise its full potential.”
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