Last month the Department for Transport said it would not be considering the proposed 140km route, designed by transport specialist Weston Williamson + Partners and Expedition Engineering, which they put forward following the government’s call for market-led rail ideas earlier this year.
Dubbed HS4Air and likened to an M25 for high-speed trains, the new line would have started at Ashford in Kent and run south of London via the two airports before connecting to the Great Western Mainline and HS2 north of Heathrow.
But a rejection letter from the department described the plans as too ‘complex [with] a number of high-cost and high-risk delivery challenges’.
Weston Williamson associate partner Nick McGough hit out at the decision, questioning why the UK government found it ’so difficult to think big and plan properly’.
‘HS4Air is an exciting idea … which deserves serious consideration and evaluation,’ he said. ‘And if the project could be delivered without the use of taxpayer money, why would the department not want to know how this might be achieved?
’Their reaction is symptomatic of the UK government’s inability to take a longer-term view, set against the backdrop of Crossrail delays, HS2 controversy and the Northern Line Extension delay.’
McGough said the team would be challenging the department’s response and ‘seeking further clarity on why they do not feel they should engage further’.
He added: ‘As the UK heads toward a new relationship with our neighbours, now, more than ever, smarter and more joined-up infrastructure planning is required.”
According to the team, the proposed line would have slashed journey times between Heathrow and Gatwick from around 1 hour 45 minutes to just 15 minutes.
As part of the proposals, four new stations would have been built along the route at Ashford, Tonbridge, Gatwick and Heathrow.
The government launched its call for market-led proposals in March last year under new proposals to try and increase the amount of third-party investment in rail. At the time of the launch, the department said the public sector did not have a ‘monopoly on good ideas’ and wanted to provide a sustainable future for the rail sector.