Ministers are considering plans to link Gatwick and Heathrow airports via a high speed railway service. The idea is to create a virtual hub, currently being called Heathwick, which could help to tackle the problem of diminishing capacity at airports in the south east. The trains would travel at up to 180mph meaning the journey time between Heathrow and Gatwick would be just 15 minutes. The project has been budgeted at £5 billion.
The track, which would mostly be underground, would follow the M25 and could stretch beyond Heathrow to RAF Northolt. Gatwick bosses have said that they welcome the scheme and look forward to examining it further. However, BAA, which owns Heathrow, said there were enormous political, technical and financial hurdles to be crossed.
Ryanair and easyJet said they would oppose the project. Both are worried that if a hub is created then low-cost carriers could be forced away from Gatwick. Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary, dismissed the idea as prohibitively expensive and predicted that it would not be constructed in his lifetime.
Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airlines Group, British Airways’ parent company, said it was almost impossible to say how much the Heathwick project would cost or how long it would take to complete. He added that the government could end up regretting not going forward with constructing another runway at Heathrow.
Boris Johnson has said he will support further examination of the Heathwick proposals. However, the mayor added that he still thinks the best way of increasing capacity in the south east is through the building of a brand new Thames Estuary airport.