High-speed rail is the solution to Heathrow problem, say unions

RMT press release, issued today

INVESTMENT IN a high-speed rail network with a hub serving Heathrow would make a third runway at the airport unnecessary and provide an environmentally friendlier alternative to tens of thousands of short-haul flights, a group of unions say today.

High-speed rail would create tens of thousands of jobs – including at Heathrow – and would provide a cleaner option than airport expansion, say RMT, ASLEF and PCS.

Welcoming positive government statements on the benefits of high-speed rail and electrification and the accelerated provision of new passenger rolling stock, the unions point out that the emphasis should be on modal shift that will help meet the carbon challenge

“A high-speed rail hub serving Heathrow makes sense as part of an overall transport strategy that aims to reduce carbon emissions, and it is good news that ministers are now embracing the idea,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.

“High-speed rail shouldn’t be seen as merely a convenient way to get to the airport, but as the key to reducing unnecessary air travel so that we can free up existing runway capacity for longer-haul and inter-continental flights.

“In short, a modern high-speed, low-carbon and sustainable rail network would simply do away with the need for a third runway,” Bob Crow said.

“Eurostar is reporting record passenger numbers and Spain has seen a drop in 20 percent in passengers on domestic flights since its high-speed network was opened,” said ASLEF general secretary Keith Norman.

“That is the way to go, and if logic prevails the development of high-speed rail in Britain should see off any idea of a third runway at Heathrow,” Keith Norman said.

“A third runway at Heathrow must be opposed,” PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh said.

“It will create more noise and pollution and will mean the government won’t be able to meet the targets in the historic Climate Change Act passed in Parliament only last year. Over 1,000 people who live in the area will also be removed from their homes.

“The government should instead produce a new transport strategy for the UK focussed upon a publicly owned high-speed rail network that will create jobs and contribute to the transition to a low carbon economy and the fight against climate change,” Chris Baugh said.


Notes to editors: A report Who says there is no alternative? compiled for RMT by John Stewart, chair of the Campaign for Better Transport, last year, points out that well over a third of flights from Heathrow are short-haul, that more than 20 per cent serve destinations already served by a viable rail alternative, and that 20 per cent more are to places where rail is the potential alternative.

It also shows that where high-speed rail links have been opened there has been a significant switch from air to rail, and that the UK is in danger of being left behind as countries like Spain reap the benefits of massive rail investment.

It says that Paris remains Heathrow’s top destination and there are as many flights leaving for Edinburgh as for New York, and that if a viable, fast and sustainable alternative to short-haul flights was provided the case for Heathrow expansion would evaporate.

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