London City Airport’s outgoing chief executive officer slammed the failure to link the terminal with the 15-billion-pound ($20 billion) Crossrail train line and said planning hurdles are hurting Britain’s competitiveness.
After missing out on a Crossrail station in the route’s initial construction phase, London City has come up with a plan for reopening the nearby Silvertown halt that would satisfy the stringent requirements it was instructed to meet, according to Declan Collier, who stands down in two weeks.
London City was passed over for a Crossrail link even though the line comes within 170 meters (550 feet) of its terminal. Providing a dedicated station would create a more joined up transport system by offering a direct connection to Heathrow Airport, Europe’s busiest hub, currently over an hour away by public transport but potentially within 40 minutes’ ride on the new line.
“If people believe that it’s too difficult to get things done in the U.K. they’ll go elsewhere where it’s easier,” Collier said in an interview. “Something has gone badly wrong in strategic infrastructure.” A stop at Silvertown would require only basic platforms, a ticket hall and a physical link to the airport.
Building the station could be done at minimal public cost—about 50 million pounds, part-funded by the airport—and without affecting trains using the Elizabeth Line, as the Crossrail route will be known upon its planned opening from December 2018, Collier said. The extra stop would add no more than 2 1/2 minutes to journey times, making the project compliant with stipulations set by Transport for London.
Silvertown station closed in 2006, but at that time was located on the suburban North London line with no route into the middle of the metropolis, making it of limited use as an airport interchange. Collier said that wouldn’t be the case were it to reopen on the Elizabeth Line spanning 73 miles between Reading in the Thames valley and Shenfield in Essex via central London, adding that it’s time for “some really positive engagement from TfL and from Crossrail.”
Crossrail has not yet seen any formal feasibility or funding study from London City on a potential extension of Elizabeth Line services, Howard Smith, its operations director, said in an emailed statement. “Our focus is on delivering the agreed Crossrail scheme on time and to budget,” he said.
London City is preparing its submission, though one hasn’t yet been lodged with TfL or the U.K. government’s Department for Transport, the airport confirmed. The capital’s other airports—Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton—all have stations on the main rail network.
City attracted 4.5 million passengers last year, with an upgrade program including an extended terminal, dedicated taxiway and more aircraft stands intended to boost capacity by a further 2 million people by 2025. That in itself argues for improved transport links, Collier said. The main curb on growth is the airport’s short runway, which is unable to take full-size jetliners.
London City’s location in an urban setting just six miles from the main financial district and half that distance from the Canary Wharf banking hub makes it hugely reliant on public transit, according to the CEO. Close to 70 percent of passengers arrive that way, almost all of those on the Docklands Light Railway system, which terminates at Bank subway station to the east of central London.
City’s runway on a disused dock by the banks of the River Thames took less than two years to build, and is an example of how “we were able, 30 years ago, to get things done much faster,” said Collier, who spoke at the launch of a book on the airport’s history.
From Oct. 30, Collier, 62, will be replaced as chief by Robert Sinclair, who previously ran Bristol Airport in the west of England. Terry Morgan, Crossrail’s chairman since 2009, also took on the same role at London City in March.