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Surface access

Heathrow is the UK’s best served airport for access by road and rail. We will ensure that by 2030 at least 50% of surface access passengers arriving or departing from Heathrow will be by public transport and that by 2040 at least 55% will be by public transport.

A number of planned and proposed rail schemes look set to improve Heathrow's rail connections in the future.
A number of planned and proposed rail schemes look set to improve Heathrow’s rail connections in the future.

We have developed the following priorities to shape the development of a strategy for surface access:

  • Making public transport the preferred choice for more passengers;
  • Offering sustainable and affordable alternatives for members of staff;
  • Facilitating more efficient and responsible use of the road network;
  • Connecting all of the UK to growth through better surface access;
  • Ensuring local communities benefit from surface access improvements.


Our 8 key surface access initiatives

To achieve these priorities, we are considering eight key initiatives that will drive the development of our surface access strategy:

1. Putting Heathrow at the heart of the rail network

Improvements to Heathrow’s rail access are already being made. The introduction of the Elizabeth line (Crossrail) and Piccadilly line upgrade will improve rail services over the coming years. HS2 will connect Heathrow to key cities in the Midlands and the North via an interchange at Old Oak Common.

We want to work with others to support delivery of the following additional initiatives:

  • Increase the frequency of trains and extend operating hours on the Elizabeth line.
  • Provide a fair and reasonable contribution to the costs for a new Western Rail Link to Heathrow allowing direct rail services to Heathrow from Reading and the west
  • Work with stakeholders to support the development of a new direct rail link to Heathrow from the south.

2. Providing a public transport transport led scheme

The expansion of Heathrow provides us with an opportunity to make journeys easier for passengers, particularly those arriving by public transport. Locating terminal capacity on the public transport spine (that runs between Terminals 2, 3 and 5) is our preference as this would maximise access to existing facilities.

Supporting the use of public transport by locating employment sites close to public transport links where possible will prioritise public transport users. Upgrading rail, bus and coach stations at the airport will also make it easier to transfer from public transport to our terminals.

3. Providing a resilient and reliable road network

The expansion of Heathrow provides opportunities to tackle congestion for all users through changes to the M25 and local road network.

4. Strengthening the coach hub at Heathrow

As part of airport expansion we want to work with coach operators to improve the availability of services to and from Heathrow. By working with TfL we will also be able to establish the role of Heathrow within the wider strategy for coaches in London.

5. Investing in local transport solutions

Enhancing existing bus services, establishing new routes and introducing measures that give priority to buses would deliver faster and more reliable journeys. Opportunities for new models of local transport such as demand responsive services (flexible forms of travel that meet particular customer needs) will work alongside traditional bus routes. We will work with local authorities and Transport for London to identify priorities for improving the local cycle network and how to fund these improvements.

6. Making public transport easier for users

We want to encourage greater use of public transport and make it more convenient and easier to use. To achieve this we will work with transport operators to make public transportation to and from the airport as affordable as possible. We also want to look at ways to improve public transport journeys with information and technology. We will encourage the development of tools to provide tickets as part of the airline booking process and better align public transport operating hours with those of the airport. New innovative solutions will help people to plan and make journeys from their home to the airport as a single process.

7. Enabling more efficient and responsible use of the road network

With expansion, there will be more passengers, workers and freight at Heathrow. We need to consider new ways to manage the potential effects on the road network, including making taxi use more efficient, trialling new and emerging technology to reduce emissions from freight vehicles and consolidating trips by ensuring vehicles are fully loaded as they arrive at and depart from the airport.

We are also considering the following options for road user charging to reduce emissions and help achieve a shift to public transport:

  • Emissions based surcharge – a supplementary charge for vehicles which do not meet emissions standards;
  • Terminal low emission zone – allow priority access for low emission vehicles;
  • Drop off/pick up charge – applying a small fee to vehicles that are dropping off / picking up passengers directly outside the terminal buildings and priority access to the terminal areas for low emission and low traffic generating vehicles, such as buses and taxis;
  • Airport low emissions zone – a charge for all vehicles based on their emissions;
  • Airport access charge – a broader charge based on vehicle access to the airport could be applied to encourage passengers to use public transport.

8. Building on our successful commuter programmes

In 1991, around 80% of people working at the airport travelled to work by car. By 2013 we have reduced this to just over 50%. We want to look at different ways to further improve our programme, including providing personalised travel planning for airport employees, reducing and prioritising colleague parking, extending our discounted public transport travel and promoting walking and cycling.