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A new Southern Access to Heathrow (SAtH) programme would make getting to Heathrow Airport quicker and easier for millions of travellers across the south of England, with proposed links between Central London, Surrey, Hampshire and the airport. More accessible and convenient transport links will greatly reduce road traffic and congestion locally, enabling greener journeys to and from the airport and between local communities. Quicker and easier journeys to Heathrow will create regeneration opportunities and will make Britain a more attractive place to invest and connect UK exporters to new international markets.
The scheme previously known as ‘SRLtH (Southern Rail Link to Heathrow)’ has been renamed ‘SAtH (Southern Access to Heathrow)’ to reflect the mode agnostic approach taken through the development stages of the scheme so far and encompass modes other than just heavy rail. While we anticipate that heavy rail will be a vital component of this project, there are other mode options and interventions such as light rail, guided busways and emerging technologies such as maglev and autonomous pods that could be blended with heavy rail to enable the realisation of wider opportunities and benefits.
The 2018 market sounding
SAtH has also been seen as an opportunity for greater levels of private sector involvement. A market sounding, conducted in 2018, assessed whether there was market appetite for delivering a new rail link in a different and innovative way. In particular, the government was keen to understand whether there was support for a scheme that could be off balance sheet and could progress without government support.
The findings report, published in December 2018, described how the process had found significant interest from the market in the development and financing of the scheme. This interest aligned with government’s intention for this project to be developed with greater levels of private sector involvement than previous infrastructure projects and supported the view that harnessing the innovation and ideas of the private sector could help to create the right solution.
The market sounding exercise was focussed on understanding market appetite for a new approach to scheme delivery overall, not on the specifics of any one particular scheme. This led to a number of different approaches being put forward to deliver SAtH. All of the responses to the market sounding would require some form of government support, whether that be direct subsidy or indirect support such as, infrastructure usage guarantees. Based on the feedback from the market that government support will be required, the market sounding findings report recommended that government should clarify its objectives for the scheme and provide more direction to the market on its minimum requirements. Since the market sounding government has been working to fulfil this recommendation and in doing so has engaged with wide range of stakeholders.
The strategic objectives development
The original 8 strategic objectives presented in the market sounding briefing, published in 2018, were retained but developed and expanded upon to include a narrative for each and a set of requirements and desired outcomes. An extensive and diverse set of stakeholders have been engaged through a process of soft engagement and discussions. Stakeholders consulted have included local authorities, local enterprise partnerships, Heathrow Airport, consultancies, infrastructure owners/operators and privately led consortia. We have shared informally with the market the desired outcomes of the programme as well as gaining market steer towards what is possible and what the market would be interested in undertaking.
A version of this document was prepared to share and test with stakeholders in a soft consultation. This process was extensive and has allowed the Department to undertake a comprehensive review and testing of the strategic objectives presented here.
The purpose of this document is to set out government’s thinking and desired outcomes for SAtH. It is not to list a full set of requirements or specification at this stage. This outcome focused, high-level approach is intended to provide space for a future partner or developer to lead the business case and bring innovation and new ideas. In doing so we are conscious that the objectives are wide ranging and that there may be potential trade-offs between objectives with differing views possible on the relative priority of those objectives.
The department wants to consider an approach based on a programme of interventions which could be across different modes. This may be more likely to satisfy the required objectives, than a single ‘silver bullet’ solution. Whilst the department believes that heavy rail would be involved in such a programme of interventions, other modes and new innovative technologies are also being considered. These could include, but are not limited to, light rail, bus rapid transit, guided busways, autonomous vehicles; or a combination of the aforementioned. Interventions need not only constitute heavy civil engineering solutions and new infrastructure, for instance a re-timetabled network to provide a more suitable and convenient service pattern or upgraded signalling control to help increase network capacity are also being considered. SAtH intends to provide opportunities to bring innovative solutions to the public transport network as well as minimising environmental impacts.
The increased passenger demand generated through natural growth and the construction of a third runway at Heathrow is not anticipated to increase as a step change but rather an incremental increase over a number of years. With this in mind, government expects SAtH interventions to be delivered in phases over a period of time, increasing capacity to meet the required demand. We do not expect interventions to be completed prior to 2030.
Definition of terms and acronyms used throughout the Strategic Objectives document
|ANPS||Policy framework for expansion at Heathrow Airport and primary basis for decision making on any development consent application for a new north-west runway|
|Intervention||A project, scheme or alteration to the existing service to provide new or improved passenger or freight services, to meet the Strategic Objectives while complying with the Strategic Constraints described in this document|
|PSED||The Public Sector Equality Duty requires public bodies and others carrying out public functions to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, to advance equality of opportunities and foster good relations|
|Strategic constraint||Constraints that must be met or adhered to, while delivering the Strategic Objectives described|
|Strategic objective||Objectives that SAtH is expected to meet or exceed|
The strategic objectives and constraints
Through extensive market engagement, the 8 strategic objectives as listed in the original market sounding briefing have been further developed. These have been separated into strategic objectives and strategic constraints.
1. Encourage modal shift and reduce road congestion
The airports national policy statement (ANPS) for Heathrow includes a range of environmental and surface access requirements for the expansion of the airport. These include mode share targets that Heathrow will be required to meet; increasing public transport share to at least 50% by 2030 and 55% by 2040, and reducing airport colleague road trips by 25% by 2030 and by 50% by 2040.
There are a number of ways in which this modal shift could be delivered. New public transport links serving currently poorly connected areas could make a key contribution to this outcome, as well as other objectives such as reducing road congestion, connecting communities and environmental benefits.
For passengers travelling to the airport, or those travelling to drop-off or collect passengers, a convenient, regular and reliable service will be important to making public transport an attractive option over individual car and Private Hire Vehicle transport. Limited interchanges that are fully accessible and step free, including accessible vehicles and stations will also encourage travellers to use public transport.
For aviation employees, reliable, frequent services connecting Heathrow to key communities will be important. SAtH should therefore seek to provide frequent, regular and reliable services to Heathrow, from Central and South West London, Surrey and Hampshire which can be expected to generate significant mode shift away from road and private vehicle use and onto public transport.
1.1 SAtH shall contribute to the ANPS mode share targets and support the reduction of congestion on the local and Strategic Road Networks.
1.2 SAtH shall provide attractive journey times compared to road transport and be attractive to passengers who currently travel by car or taxi.
1.3 SAtH interventions shall provide regular and frequent passenger services to Heathrow Airport with enhanced connectivity from key markets accommodating forecast passenger demand. Where possible SAtH should provide an approximately even interval service.
1.4 SAtH shall provide a modern passenger experience offer in line with similar services across the transport network and take into account the specific needs of airport passengers. Interchanges should be limited, easy to use and step-free.
1.5 New services should be designed to deliver high levels of reliability that reflect the needs of airport passengers.
1.6 Where either a heavy rail or light rail solution is sought, any new or modified infrastructure and services shall comply with the requirements set out in the “Design standards for accessible railway stations: a code of practice” or relevant current standards. A commitment must be undertaken to consult or work alongside people including, but not limited to, persons of reduced mobility or visually impaired persons throughout the design process to ensure a practice of inclusive design is executed.
1.7 SAtH should seek, where possible within industry regulations, guidelines and value for money, to maximise the potential hours of operation to enable early and late services.
2. Reduce environmental impacts
The environment is at the heart of government policy making. In May 2019 the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. More recently, the environment bill was introduced in parliament, expressing key parts of the 25 year environment plan and the clean air strategy in law, and signalling a historic step change in the way we protect and enhance our natural environment.
Combatting climate change, supporting decarbonisation and reduction of other greenhouse gas emissions is a governmental priority. In rail the removal of all diesel-only vehicles from service is planned by 2040. The airports national policy statement (ANPS) is clear on compliance with obligations on air quality, and the importance of sustainable travel.
Public transport offers significant benefits to the environment in comparison to private road vehicles. By encouraging mode shift the scheme should reduce the use of private road vehicles and contribute to an improvement in net air quality, noise and greenhouse gas emissions.
SAtH could help facilitate the government’s net zero ambitions and offer travellers a low carbon, clean and sustainable means of getting to the airport from areas which are currently poorly connected by public transport. In doing so it is expected to have a corresponding positive impact on air quality.
SAtH is also an opportunity to go beyond the status quo and deliver improvements to the wider natural environment. This means minimising impacts on sensitive and environmentally important sites near Heathrow such as Staines Moor, and delivering biodiversity net gain for the whole scheme. It also means making sure that the construction phase of the project is designed to minimise impacts on local communities and the environment.
The scheme should also act to complement and facilitate wider green transport activity such as cycling and walking, low carbon freight and zero emission vehicles.
2.1 SAtH’s route alignment, design and construction methodology shall include explicit consideration of its environmental impacts (including mitigation), ongoing sustainability and opportunities to improve the natural environment. It will also consider opportunities to connect and enable cycling and walking routes.
2.2 SAtH will be designed to deliver biodiversity net gain.
2.3 Sustainable materials and construction methods should be used, not only for enabling works but for main construction. Sustainable construction methods are not limited to the construction of infrastructure, but clean forms of goods transportation and site traffic should be prioritised.
2.4 The scheme should be designed to facilitate net zero greenhouse gas and renewable forms of energy shall be used, where appropriate and feasible.
2.5 Any parking facilities provided as part of the scheme will provide significant provision of rapid charging for electric vehicles and storage for bicycles.
2.6 Any new infrastructure shall meet any environmental planning constraints or requirements including noise and vibration, visual amenity, light, air quality, and flood mitigations.
2.7 The design shall be developed in collaboration with central and local government including agencies with key environmental undertakings in the local area. The departments with specific environmental remit that should be consulted include, but are not limited to, the Environment Agency and Natural England.
3. Connect communities
SAtH represents an opportunity to provide greater connectivity and journey choices within South West London, Surrey and Hampshire, to Central London and around Heathrow for all passengers. SAtH should focus on those areas where there is the greatest demand and where limited alternative options currently leads to low public transport mode share.
As well as providing connections to the airport, SAtH shall seek to improve the available public transport options and links to wider public transport networks across the south west of London and Surrey and Hampshire.
Providing greater connectivity and integration will help serve areas which currently have limited alternative public transport options and help contribute to the objective to boost growth and regeneration.
New calling points on any new infrastructure, in particular those that provide regeneration and growth opportunities, could also provide integration with other sustainable transport modes to maximise the attractiveness of the service and ensure greater use.
As well as improving access to the airport, the scheme should take into account and support other transport and infrastructure improvements such as Park and Ride facilities in the scheme area.
3.1 SAtH shall provide connectivity between Heathrow and Greater London, key markets in south-west London, Surrey and Hampshire and local communities with high demand to Heathrow but limited alternative public transport options in either quality or quantity.
3.2 The services should maximise access to both Terminal 2 and 3 and Terminal 5 stations at Heathrow Airport while minimising interchange. Where interchange is unavoidable, it should be easy, convenient and reliable for passengers.
3.3 SAtH shall consider new intermediate calling points, in particular those that would support regeneration and growth opportunities.
3.4 In providing services from the south to Heathrow, SAtH should facilitate a service offer that provides easy interchange with other public transport services.
4. Boost economic growth and encourage regeneration
SAtH should benefit the communities around Heathrow, boosting productivity and economic growth and encouraging regeneration. The development of SAtH should identify options for linking current and future economic hubs and residential areas, reducing deprivation and supporting government’s policy on housing growth.
Consideration should be given to the development of public transport interchanges to enable improved pedestrian access, cycle storage and links to local bus networks. This would provide greater accessibility and connectivity to employment opportunities, nationally and internationally, improving productivity and outputs in the UK economy.
4.1 SAtH should improve connectivity to areas of economic growth and off-airport development sites for housing and employment.
4.2 SAtH should give consideration to intermediate calling point(s) on new infrastructure serving local communities.
4.3 In developing a service proposition for SAtH the business case shall consider and balance the needs of different communities.
4.4 SAtH should be mindful of, and work with, the existing masterplans of the Local Authorities and LEPs that it passes through, as far as is practicable.
5. Enhance our global competitiveness by making Britain a more attractive place to invest
The transport sector makes trade possible and supports business across Great Britain and internationally. Businesses need effective international connections to access existing and new markets, integrate their operations into their global networks and supply chains and to conduct business efficiently. The UK is already well placed to meet these needs, but we are in constant competition with other countries to attract global business.
By providing new journey options, improving connections to the airport and the labour market and airport supply chain, SAtH will support UK business and trade.
There are opportunities to increase usage of rail freight and freight transported by alternative transport modes, further boosting global competitiveness through enabling faster and more economic methods of transporting goods.
5.1 SAtH should seek to source local workforce and apprentices. This should include not only the design and construction phases, but also the provision of operational staff.
5.2 SAtH scheme promotors shall comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty, as set out in Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, as if they were a public authority. To this end they will be require to carry out an equality impact assessment and implement the findings.
5.3 SAtH should seek to provide connectivity to improve access of businesses in the region to Heathrow.
5.4 The opportunities for freight to and from Heathrow Airport should be considered, including innovative customs processes to increase the speed and economic viability of rail and other modal freight.
6. Minimise the impact on current and future passenger and freight journeys and services
SAtH should not propose new services where the benefit is outweighed by the detriment to existing services or journey options in terms of crowding levels, frequency and journey times, nor be at the expense of non-airport journeys. It may propose alternatives to existing services only where the benefit and passenger impact is net positive.
SAtH has the opportunity to contribute to the network meeting future background demand. The rail and road networks in this area are heavily used with growing demand. SAtH could provide alternative journey options for travellers for leisure and business.
6.1 SAtH shall not impair the ability of the existing rail network to meet the demands of other key rail flows, including commuter demand into London terminals, both now and in the future.
6.2 SAtH should minimise the impact on existing services or journey options. Where it proposes new travel and freight alternatives it shall make clear the overall economic financial and user impact with a clearly defined business case. It is imperative that the impact is minimised not just during operation but during any enabling works or construction periods.
6.3 Consideration shall be given to construction traffic in particular when multiple construction projects are in place concurrently. Responsible parties must seek to minimise the volume and frequency of construction traffic on local roads, and where possible, alternative methods of construction traffic should be implemented.
6.4 SAtH shall not negatively impact the safety of the existing operational transport network. SAtH shall seek to meet if not exceed, by design and construction, the safety of operators, maintainers, passengers and customers.
6.5 Where new services would increase the usage of a level crossing, analysis will be done to determine whether mitigations are required. These mitigations could include, but are not limited to, road diversions or road and pedestrian bridges and tunnels. No new level crossings shall be installed, either on the existing heavy rail network, or on any new infrastructure, be that heavy rail or other transport modes.
6.6 The current operational modelling suggests that through services between Paddington and Waterloo could not be provided without significant risk being created to operational performance and resilience across the Great Western and South Western networks. It is the department’s assumption that through services between Paddington and Waterloo will not be operated but the scheme may propose such services if supported by robust analysis which shows such risks can be mitigated.
6.7 SAtH shall take advantage of the wider enhancements and improvements being made in the region. The usage of these enhancements must not be in a manner which reduces the benefit realised by the existing network(s) and non-airport services.
6.8 SAtH shall identify any consequential enhancements required to existing transport networks to support its delivery. In the event additional modifications to existing networks are required, a delivery strategy shall be provided by the scheme. Interventions required for SAtH should provide a net positive benefit to the existing network(s) affected, and in no case, shall have a detrimental effect to the safety, operability or availability of the existing network(s). Any benefits identified for the existing network(s) should be clearly identified in any business case.
6.9 SAtH shall mitigate any modelled impact it may have on train performance or asset resilience of the existing network, services and infrastructure. This could be via operational practices, infrastructure enhancements or new technologies.
7. Be deliverable
SAtH shall be deliverable and shall satisfy all relevant industry safety requirements in their construction and future operation.
With multiple scheme and route options, SAtH provides an opportunity for a number of interventions to be delivered in phases to bring capacity and services online as Heathrow’s expanded capacity grows. This would also provide the opportunity to align with wider network enhancements.
The scheme design will need to be compatible with existing networks, infrastructure at Heathrow and any reasonable future proofing of the Strategic Road Network along the possible alignment.
7.1 SAtH shall be designed, developed, built, operated and maintained to be fully compliant with industry standards set by relevant bodies, including but not limited to Network Rail and RSSB (where relevant) and the Office of Rail and Road.
7.2 Any proposer of a heavy rail solution shall work with Network Rail, to Network Rail standards with its interfaces at either end of the link.
7.3 SAtH shall mitigate any impact it may have on train performance during construction. This could be via operational practices, infrastructure enhancements or new technologies.
7.4 The proposer shall work with Highways England to ensure the new infrastructure aligns with future-proofing plans for the Strategic Road Network.
7.5 Where there is an interaction, the scheme will need to be compatible with the planned Western Rail Link to Heathrow and the existing infrastructure in the T5 box. Should cross-overs or junctions be required for operational flexibility the alignment approach will need to allow for this.
7.6 Any heavy rail link and its terminus will need to be sub-surface within the Heathrow boundary. Associated shafts and infrastructure within the Heathrow boundary would need to be agreed with Heathrow Airport Limited.
7.7 For any heavy rail scheme, the government’s policy on future rolling stock shall be adhered to.
7.8 For any heavy rail link, SAtH shall consider how digital signalling will be implemented on both new and existing rail infrastructure in order to optimise the service offering. It shall integrate fully with the infrastructure and systems in place at time of opening and shall be compatible with those planned for the future.
7.9 Consideration should be given to the supply chain and its efficient usage across other large infrastructure projects being delivered within the same timeframe and or area.
7.10 Modelling and consideration of mitigations should be given to potential increases in road congestion at intermediate and linked stations.
7.11 SAtH shall be designed, constructed, tested and commissioned in line with or exceeding current regulations and legislation for safe working practices. The safety of staff, contractors, operators, maintainers or anybody interacting with the transport mode shall be paramount and no work methods that could pose a detrimental effect to safety shall be acceptable.
8. Be affordable and value for money
All government sponsored and/or funded projects are required to demonstrate affordability and value for money. It is still intended that this project will have a greater level of private sector involvement than we have seen in previous rail infrastructure projects. It is important that all beneficiaries of this new link contribute appropriately to the costs of its delivery.
The operational and infrastructure management arrangements for the scheme are not defined at this stage, but the scheme shall develop a service package that will minimise the need for public subsidy and provide value for money for rail passengers and taxpayers. It should do this while still achieving the wider strategic objectives.
8.1 The case for SAtH scheme(s) shall be developed following the government’s published ‘Green Book’ business case guidance, which includes producing a Strategic Outline Business Case (SOBC), Outline Business Case (OBC), and Full Business Case (FBC) at the requisite stages. A key feature to the business case will be to clearly define the benefits of any scheme for both airport and non-airport users.
8.2 SAtH will need to be accompanied by a funding and / or financing package with appropriate levels of assurance and will be required to meet value for money as defined in government appraisal guidance.
8.3 SAtH shall follow the current (and any future changes to) policy on fares and ticketing including smart ticketing arrangements in place at the time of commissioning of the new service. This should include consideration of through tickets and the extension of Transport for London’s Zone 6.
8.4 The scheme shall demonstrate efficiency and innovation in the design, delivery and whole life operational costs of the solution.