A proposal for a high-speed rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick which in theory will combine the airports into a single hub christened Heathwick has been slammed by airlines.
It’s one of a series of ideas the government is considering implementing to deal with airport capacity issues, following its announcement that there will be no new runways for Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.
The “Heathwick” idea, to “merge” Heathrow and Gatwick was not well received by the airlines. British Airways said the plan would “do absolutely nothing to address the pressing issue of the southeast’s need for more airport capacity”. International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh added:
“It is not an efficient way of doing things.The cost would clearly be significantly greater than the previous options that have been rejected. I struggle to see how it would be funded. The airports are not owned by the same owner.”
The Heathwick plan would see low-cost carriers leaving Gatwick and basing themselves back at Stansted, driven out by higher airport charges.
An easyJet spokesman said: “We will fight all the way against any attempt to force us out of Gatwick.”
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary agreed, was also adamant, saying “There is no way of moving the budget airlines out of Gatwick.”
Heathrow operator BAA is against the Heathwick proposal. It said: “A virtual hub between Heathrow and Gatwick faces insurmountable technical, operational, political and financial challenges and would take years to deliver. It provides no extra runway capacity in the southeast, which is the key problem.”
A spokesman for Gatwick airport has commented: “We would be pleased to discuss the idea. Anything that has the potential to distribute demand for access to London’s airports has to be a good thing.”
The plan would cost around £5 billion, the idea being that 180mph trains would run frequently, linking Heathrow and Gatwick in 15 minutes, departing every five minutes and travelling almost wholly underground. The high-speed service would allow transfer passengers to connect between the airports. The proposals will be looked at next spring.