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Railwatch 081 - October 1999

From plane to train at Stansted

Two decades ago, RDS members appeared at a public inquiry into the development of Stansted Airport. We argued for a rail link to the airport, enabling trains to reach it from both the London and Cambridge directions. That subsequently happened.

Such action does not mean we automatically support unrestricted growth of air transport. For many journeys, high speed trains are a better option. That is why RDS campaigned for many years for the Channel Tunnel and why our international committee continues to press for it to be better exploited as part of a European rail network.

Travellers between Britain and the near Continent should be encouraged to go this way. There also remains a role for the classic rail/sea/rail combination on some routes.

However, air transport will still have a large share of international travel and so, in the recent public consultation on proposals to increase the passenger air traffic movement limit at Stansted, we did not object. Instead, we argued for improved public transport infrastructure and noted with approval the Department of Transport, Environment and the Regions' aim "to increase the proportion using public transport at Stansted."

Approval has since been given for passenger throughput to extend to ultimately 15 million per year. That in turn will create more jobs at the airport. The more of those workers who can be encouraged to commute in by train, the better. This was a point made by RDS representatives Richard Pout and David Bigg at the Essex Structure Plan hearing this summer.

Seventy per cent of the airport's main demand is said to be centred on London, and so an enhanced service to and from Liverpool Street is obviously important. But Silicon Fen (also known as Cambridgeshire) is not far away, and there will be increased demand for better rail services from there to the airport. A reopened St Ives line will have a part to play there - and so naturally we continue to argue against proposals to turn it into a busway or a toll road.

Extending the airport branch eastwards to Braintree to link up with the Great Eastern network is another way of improving its infrastructure and - incidentally - making new journeys possible, such as Ipswich to Harlow or Harwich to Bishops Stortford. Our studies suggest this would cost £42 million, compared to an estimated £87 million for road improvements along that corridor. In the short term, however, more can be done to integrate the Colchester-Stansted Rail Link Coach service into the rest of the network; and ideas like interchangeability of rail and coach tickets between Cambridge and the airport are worth exploring.

RDS therefore organised an all-day conference for decision makers and opinion formers at the Marks Tey Hotel, Colchester on Wednesday 22 September. This was a relatively new departure for us, since most of our conferences to date have been on Saturdays and aimed principally at the voluntary sector. Speakers included MPs and managers from Railtrack and train operators as well as representatives of the voluntary sector.

Details of the conference will be published in the next issue of Railwatch.

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.


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