The UK government’s plans for a third terminal at Heathrow could include construction of a £4.5bn railway hub, the transport minister Lord Adonis has hinted.
The hub, which would become the UK’s largest train station, would serve as a high-speed rail link with Europe. It would also serve as a “sweetener” for the environmental damage that a third Heathrow runway would cause.In an interview with The Sunday Times, Adonis said the government was enthusiastic about proposals for the hub, which could reduce journey times between some of the UK’s main cities and the continent by more than two hours.
He said: “I think that it’s an attractive idea. It’s vital that we have an integrated approach to planning new rail capacity and any new airport capacity that’s also required.”
“The key issue on the hub is whether the north-south line would also serve Heathrow and therefore offer much better interchange facilities at Heathrow and the capacity to get to and from Heathrow much more rapidly and conveniently from other parts of the country.”
Cities that could benefit most include Birmingham, from where passengers could reach Paris by train 2hr 45min more quickly than now, and Manchester, where the saving would be even greater, as well as Leeds and Bristol.
The interview comes when the government has given its strongest hint yet that it will give the go-ahead for the third runway. The hub would be linked around London to the existing Eurostar line.
London mayor Boris Johnson has announced that he will hold a public debate on the runway plan on 21 January.
The Conservatives have attacked the proposal, arguing Britain should instead invest in high-speed rail links between London and northern England.
Theresa Villiers, the shadow transport secretary, said: “A new rail hub at Heathrow should be an alternative to a third runway not a sweetener for it.”