Events News

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1188UK: A new transport plan developed by a an alliance of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield has been presented to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP and HS2 chairman Sir David Higgins on Tuesday 5 August.

The report, One North: A Proposition for an Interconnected North lays out opportunities to maximise economic growth across the north, boosting transport links and helping rebalance the national economy.

If adopted, the £15 billion, 15-year investment plan, which complements the high speed rail HS2 proposals, could deliver benefits for the whole of the North of England including up to 150% additional capacity on roads and as much as 55% faster journey times on a faster, more frequent interconnected rail network.

It would also deliver new trains running on a dedicated 125 mph trans-Pennine rail-link, a faster route to Newcastle and direct, fast and frequent access to Manchester Airport for all the North's city regions to help northern businesses access global markets.

One North has been supported by a number of other key cities and regions including Hull, Bradford, Wakefield and York – who have all helped shape the findings of the report.

Among the report proposals are calls to:

  • A very fast, frequent and high quality intercity rail network joining up city regions – including a new trans-Pennine route (tunnelled as necessary), a faster link to Newcastle and improved access to Manchester Airport.
  • Improved regional rail networks to provide additional capacity and help sustain growth, interconnected with HS2 and intercity services plus local tram networks and more park and ride facilities.
  • New rolling stock (as a priority), electrification of existing lines, higher service frequencies and addressing pinch-points on the rail network.
  • A digital infrastructure enabling real-time information, greater network resilience and faster connections between key areas to personal and business users.
  • Building HS2 early – extending Phase One to Crewe and bringing forwards the delivery of HS2 between Leeds and Sheffield.
  • Rail/light rail connection to Leeds Bradford Airport.


Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said: "The current constraints on our transport networks, the product of years of neglect and under-investment, affect the competitiveness of the north. East-West journeys take almost twice as long as equivalent journeys in the south and our rail links are too slow and uncoordinated."

Councillor Keith Wakefield Leader of Leeds City Council said: "HS2, supported by strong regional transport networks, has the potential to bring transformational regeneration and investment to many of our cities and city regions."

Broad Timescales for Delivering the Proposition

By 2019

  • Northern Hub and electrification between Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds-Hull and Middlesbrough and consequent new rolling stock.
  • Midland Main Line electrification.
  • Complete all national pipeline strategic highway schemes.


By 2024

  • Further electrification including to Scarborough, Calder Valley and Hope Valley/south trans Pennine routes, together with new electric fleets, in addition to the well evidenced need for more rolling stock generally across the North.
  • 40 minutes journey time at most between Leeds and Manchester and improvements in services between Manchester and Sheffield.
  • Managed motorways complete across the M62/M56/M60 network and north-south on M1 and M6/M61.
  • Network gaps from the North East to South Yorkshire and northwards towards Scotland closed.
  • Rail/light rail connection to Leeds Bradford Airport.

By 2026

  • With HS2 delivered earlier as far as Crewe, provide additional capacity and capability for onward links to Manchester, Liverpool, Warrington and to both inland freight terminals and ports.
  • Speeded up (140 mph) and more reliable ECML and new route to serve Newcastle.
  • Cross city region suburban services for Leeds, Liverpool (east-west), Manchester, Sheffield, Bradford (north-south link such as a tram-train or similar), Newcastle provided by good quality rolling stock.

By 2030

  • New tunnelled trans Pennine route at 125 mph.
  • To the west, direct connectivity with Manchester Airport, Liverpool and Manchester.
  • To the east connectivity with Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle and Hull.
  • Recasting HS2 in Yorkshire - bring forward Leeds-Sheffield section in conjunction with new trans Pennine route
  • In Leeds integrate HS2 into existing Leeds Station.
  • In Sheffield City Region create connectivity with a HS2 station with east-west capability.

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1203Global AirRail Personality of the Year 2012, John Morris is joining the UK AirRail 2014 conference as the event Chair.

"Behavioural economics – and common sense – suggest that stress-free and seamless Airport access influences choice, encourages repeat business, and enhances profitability. The UK AirRail Conference is a credible forum that brings together those who can drive change," John said.

"No single delegate has all of the answers; nor do any of the speakers. However, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I find it rewarding to learn from those for whom modest changes have nudged new behaviours – it is not all about flagship projects. Often, a question from the floor will spark a new thought process, that's why the UK AirRail Conference is different. People come to participate and not just to "listen and network".

"As Chairman of the UK AirRail 2014 Conference, I look forward to learning, challenging and listening."

John is a highly professional, determined and innovative Executive Director with over 25 years of experience gained within nationally recognised organisations, including rail and aviation. For the ten years to July 2014, John has worked at Birmingham Airport, driving a step-change to the infrastructure of the Airport and surrounding area. He led the team who successfully prepared and saw through the Planning Application for the runway extension at Birmingham Airport. John's lobbying for a High Speed Rail Link to Birmingham Airport was a significant contributory factor to the proposed route for HS2.

John's 2005-2012 Airport Surface Access Strategy for Birmingham Airport led to greater co-operation between transport providers which contributed to the increased percentage of public transport trips to the airport from 20.8% to 34%.

Join John and other UK air-rail professionals for a day of discussions and networking on 27 November 2014 at London Hilton Paddington Hotel.

The UK AirRail conference is organised by the Global AirRail Alliance (GARA) and co-hosted by Heathrow Express and First Great Western.

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1207INTERVIEW: One of the pioneers of a dedicated airport express train service, Heathrow Express is still leading the market after 15 years of operations. Today we speak with Fraser Brown, Commercial Director of Heathrow Express about the challenges and opportunities for one of the most well-known airport expresses in the world.

  • There aren't many airport expresses around the world, just over 20 airports in the world can say they have a dedicated airport train service. Why is it important to keep this distinction between an airport rail service and a commuter service that stops at the airport?

  • fraserAirport passengers and regular rail commuters are two very different groups of travellers with very different needs. Commuter rail passengers don't need luggage space, they don't need help with their travel, but they need a stopping service. Air passengers, on the other hand, need more time to board the train, store their luggage on train, understand their travel options, where to purchase tickets - they need reassurance and assistance during the journey. Trying to mix those two passenger groups affects both of them negatively.

  • Last year HEX carried 5.84 million passengers, your market share of people travelling to and from Heathrow Airport by Heathrow Express is over 11% and 30% of central London market. What is your strategy to get more passengers on board and to capture bigger market share?

  • Our main market geography is domestic and short haul business commuters coming for a to London. But not all of these passengers know about Heathrow Express. Our Rugby campaign is part of raising awareness activities in a different way. Advertising at the origin airport is very expensive and not very targeted way to get your message out. Rugby fans are in the same demographics as our customers, so this is a great match for us.

Another way is to work with airlines. Because Heathrow Express is fully owned by the airport, we are in a great position to work closer with airlines in terms of driving sales. For example, our partnership with Aer Lingus allows for a very clear and simple HEX ticket sale through the airline's online shopping basket. In my view, one of the key ways to drive up sales for airport rail operators is to work with airlines.

Passengers plan their flight and hotel stay but very often leave the airport transfer decision for when they land at the airport. We want them to pre-purchase Heathrow Express journey before they travel.
For some time now you are operating a pop-up office at HEX station at Heathrow T5 to better engage with your customers. What are the main takeaways from your conversations with your passengers?

Pleasantly for us, we found that our passengers associate closely with Heathrow Express brand and feel passionate about the service. We are discussing many things with our customers, from volume of the Heathrow Express on-board TV, to how can we improve our ticket selection and value, for example for travelling families or leisure passengers.

Thank you for talking with airrail NEWS!

Heathrow Express is hosting the UK AirRail 2014, taking place on 27 November at London Hilton Paddington Hotel.

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872VENTS: The UK stands at a critical crossroads in its global connectivity. This is a result of decades of reliance on substandard, outdated infrastructure and a political failure to achieve consensus on a deliverable long term transport strategy.

At the UK AirRail: Connecting for Growth conference (29th November 2012, London) Mark Bostock and Steve Costello will discuss why the UK has failed to learn lessons of integrated transport strategy from successful examples in Europe.

"Those lessons are clear, and indeed mandated by EC transport policy - the vital need to plan aviation and rail policies in tandem, not in isolation where, most recently, Government has decided to proceed with an HS2 scheme that bypasses Heathrow, before an aviation debate has even started. The UK also needs to accept the growing awareness of, and legal obligations for, environmental protection. It is simply no longer credible to promote additional runway capacity in the way that was possible a generation ago," explain the Mark and Steve.

Heathrow Hub will address these points, and put forward its vision for an integrated transport solution to the connectivity that is essential for UK economic growth, in a way that is deliverable, achievable at an early date and environmentally acceptable. "Heathrow Hub Ltd has been campaigning for an integrated transport strategy for over 9 years. We have now reached such a crucial time for the UK economy that it is vital that this debate is held and a consensus gained: the narrow, silo thinking of Government must be changed for the good of the country."

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UK rail meetingEVENTS: UK rail and air operators met last week to discuss the future of seamless travel and the challenges that the rail franchises have to face to ensure fast and convenient connections to UK airports.

Supported by easyJet, the conference emphasised the role of dedicated non-stop airport rail links.
"We support the Government's vision for a transport system that is an engine for economic growth.

We also believe that to create a sustainable framework for aviation in the UK, surface access, particularly rail transport to and from the airports is key to delivering this growth," Paul Simmons, General Manager UK at easyJet said.

Summarising their vision for airport rail access, Paul Simmons said: "We need dedicated rolling stock with sufficient luggage space, such as Heathrow and Stansted Express; we need dedicated services such as Heathrow Express; simple free and frequent connections between airport and rail station; and improved signage, ticketing and marketing to increase patronage and make it easier for passengers to use an airport rail link."

According to Alex Foulds, Development Director at Southern Railway, a very significant proportion of people use Gatwick Express.

"Gatwick Express holds 42% of inner London journey market share and 13% total airport journey market share. Passenger number grew from 4 million at the start of the franchise to 5.35 million in 2011/2012."

"We've changed our Gatwick Express fleet to Class 442 trains to increase the capacity by 10%. These are old trains but they were refurbished before coming in to the service. The problem with these trains is that the doors are not as wide and there is more of a step up to board the train, but they have plenty of luggage space and are very reliable."

Alex Foulds also introduced the improvements to the Gatwick Airport station for better passenger experience. Southern Railways have taken over the operation and management of the Gatwick Airport station from Network rail and are looking to upgrade the station. They've already installed new signage, floors, ticket machines and gates. At the moment work progresses on an additional platform 7, this will allow a dedicated platform for Gatwick Express.

According to Julia Gregory, Head of Surface Access Transport at Gatwick Airport, the biggest challenge is to keep the commuters and air travellers happy.

"We have about a million commuters travelling through Gatwick. The critical thing that we are lobbying for is the specification of the Gatwick Express within the Thameslink franchise. We want the recognition of the economical value rail passengers bring to the airport and the UK economy."

Paul Simmons also brought the attention to the less than perfect rail connection to Luton Airport, easyJet's original base.

"We need to get the rolling stock to meet the needs of the passengers travelling to London Luton Airport. The signage at St Pancras station is also not great and the first and last train call needs to be addressed. The bus between London Luton Airport Parkway railway station and the airport needs to be free. You can't ask people for £2.50 when they just arrive in the country. You also need to simplify the ticketing. We believe that if you buy a ticket to the Luton Airport Parkway it should take you to the airport rather than to the station. And we want enhanced train service branding, similar to Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express. We think Luton should have dedicated airport express," Paul Simmons said.

According to Michael Schabas, Associate at the First Class Partnerships, Stansted Airport has a potential to become a second London air hub.

"If you build four runways at Stansted and create the right rail connections, airlines will come," Michael Schabas said. "Railways deliver three things - capacity, speed and connectivity. Connectivity is very important. Airport passengers do not want to change trains more than once."

Paul Kehoe, CEO at Birmingham Airport urged the government to have a different approach to aviation strategy.

"UK aviation policy is toxic, political and not encouraging the competition. If we have a different approach, we might have a different solution. Perhaps a differential tax regime, or a congestion tax at airports?"

UK Minister of State for Transport, RT Hon Simon Burns MP has emphasised the importance of air-rail links and assured the delegates that UK Government has a laser focus on modernising railways, airports and links between them.

Notes to Editors
UK AirRail Connecting for Growth was organised by airrail EVENTS, part of The Global AirRail Alliance, an international organisation dedicated to air-rail intermodality.

Conference video intro, full Minister's speech and Q&A session is available here.