Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Sunday, 4 January 2009

Rail plan proposed for Heathrow

A passenger jet
A decision on Heathrow's expansion is due this month

The government is putting forward plans for an international rail interchange at Heathrow alongside its proposals for a third runway at the airport.

Transport Minister Lord Adonis told The Sunday Times the hub would enable more passengers to travel to Heathrow by train rather than by car.

The 4.5bn hub would also link London and the north of Britain with destinations on the continent.

Green campaigners said they supported it as an alternative to the runway.

Established plans

Lord Adonis said: "I think that it [the hub] is an attractive idea.

"It's vital that we have an integrated approach to planning new rail capacity and any new airport capacity that's also required."

The rail link, which would run between London St Pancras and Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds, with Heathrow linked in, was first proposed by the Tories last September as an alternative to a third runway.

Conservative transport spokeswoman Theresa Villiers said rail would cut Heathrow flights by 66,000 a year, 30% of the planned capacity of the third runway, eventually rising to 44% with a more extensive high speed rail network in the UK.

John Stewart, a campaigner against Heathrow expansion, said: "We do support high-speed rail as an alternative to a third runway but we do not think there is a market for both as they will both be going for short-haul passengers.

"It's either one or the other."

He added that the government had not consulted on the addition of the high speed rail line and that it was a "bolt-on to already established plans for a third runway" that he did not believe the government were serious about.

A government decision on Heathrow's expansion is due this month.

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