Wednesday 18 September 2019

Heathrow Airport Expansion and Cycling

The latest consultation on the proposal to expand Heathrow Airport has just closed. Ealing Cycling Campaign went through several hundred pages of documents to see how it would affect cycling.
The airport has set a target of 6% of employees cycling to work, which seems low compared to Schiphol Airport's target of about 15% by 2024. However, Heathrow may find even that low target hard to meet. Its plans present several obstacles to people who want to commute by bike. The first barrier is the expanded perimeter. Someone who commutes to Terminal 5 from north of the airport would have to cycle about 6 km further to get around the proposed new third runway. An easy 3 km trip will turn into a 9 km commute. The airport is making provision for the M25 to pass under the runway, but there is no similar shortcut for cyclists.
The second obstacle is the lack of direct routes to the places of employment inside the perimeter. The only access to the future expanded Terminal 5 complex (T5, T5X, T5NX), will be from the south west, but most employees currently live north-east of the airport, many of them in Southall. The new Terminal 5NX will be only a hundred or so metres from roads in the north, but people working there will need to travel around the airport perimeter to access it.
Getting to the Central Terminal Area (Terminals 1, 2 and 3) will also be difficult. Heathrow is considering re-opening the cycle tunnel that is currently closed, but it then plans to shut it again to cyclists, and use it instead for a passenger shuttle service from the car park. This will cut off cycle access from the north. The airport has a plan to run a cycle tunnel to the Central Terminal Area from the south, but at the moment this is only indicative. Probably over half of Heathrow's employees will work at buildings inside the perimeter, which will only be accessible via tunnels from the south.
The third problem is the lack of through routes. From west to east the extended site will be 7.5 km long – that’s 4.7 miles. With no cycle way through, this will be one of the largest barriers to north-south cycling in London. Other airports provide transit routes for cyclists. Schiphol has two public cycle paths through it. We would like to see Heathrow do the same.
You can read Ealing Cycling Campaign's response to the consultation here.