A legal row between the developers of London’s £15 billion Crossrail underground railway project and the operators of Heathrow Airport could result in trains not stopping at the nation’s busiest airport.
Currently, Heathrow Express trains run on 5 miles of track that the airport laid at a cost of £1 billion. Crossrails’ arrival means that that service will no longer be viable. The Times has reported that because of this, the airport’s investment fund owners are looking to recoup their investment by charging £570 for every Crossrail train that uses the track, in addition to standing fees of around £107 per train.
According to transport officials and the rail watchdog, such charges have no justification and they fear that their imposition would cost Crossrail £42 million per year and result in higher ticket charges. A decision on the wrangle is now with a High Court judge whose judgement is expected imminently.
If the decision goes against Crossrail, Transport for London have drawn up contingency plans to terminate the trains a few miles short of the airport, forcing travellers to change to alternative trains but meaning that Crossrail would avoid paying the fees. In fact, Crossrail is already believed to have earmarked a location somewhere near the airport where the trains could be turned around for the return journey or continue travelling west.
Heathrow told the Times: ‘We need to ensure that track access charges are fair, and are waiting on a ruling from the courts.’
Crossrail is expected to be ready to operate by December 2019.