Calls for London train services to be increased
Stansted boss calls for the return of four trains per hour between the airport and London Liverpool Street
· Restoring public transport services to pre-pandemic levels critical in delivering a sustainable recovery
· Increased rail frequency vital in maintaining UK leading position for public transport use
· Speakers from public transport providers and industry bodies in attendance at annual Transport Forum
London Stansted's Managing Director, Gareth Powell, says restoring four trains an hour between Stansted Airport and London Liverpool Street is key to delivering vital sustainability targets and supporting the airport's growth plans.
The frequency of trains between the airport and Liverpool Street dropped significantly during the pandemic from four to two per hour. However, Stansted is the fastest recovering major airport in the UK, and with passenger numbers almost back to pre-pandemic levels, the airport needs four trains per hour to be reinstated.
The reduced frequency has made rail less appealing and less convenient for passengers and employees, which has in turn encouraged many to switch to private cars or taxis, contradicting one of the key pillars of the Government's recent aviation strategy aimed at securing a sustainable recovery from COVID.
London Stansted prides itself at being the UK’s leading major airport in terms of the share of passengers using public transport, with more than 50% travelling to or from the airport by bus, coach or train in 2019. However, the latest CAA modal share data shows an 11 per cent decline in the use of rail as a proportion of all trips to the airport compared to 2019’s figures.
In a speech to an audience of more than 100 transport experts, business partners and community groups at this week’s annual Transport Forum, Gareth Powell, London Stansted's Managing Director, said that the service needs to be increased to ensure passengers choose sustainable travel options, and to support the airport's ambitious growth plans. He said:
“The Government’s decision to cut the Stansted Express from four trains to two trains per hour, owing to reduced passenger numbers and the financial impact of COVID was perfectly understandable at the time. Now the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, we’re fast returning to 2019 volumes, and we therefore need a higher frequency, more convenient rail service, the likes of which serve the other major London airports. This will also enable us to deliver the most sustainable recovery possible, encouraging more passengers back onto trains and out of private cars, in line with a key pillar of the Government’s recent aviation strategy. We achieved the highest public transport modal share of any major UK airport – more than 50% of passengers travelled to or from the airport by public transport in 2019. That’s an impressive record, and one I intend to protect.”
Commenting after the event, he added:
“Our future plans and ambitions for sustainable growth, including the whole aviation sector achieving net zero by 2050, are clearly matched by our business partners, as we have heard loud and clear today. National Express and Greater Anglia are committed to doing all they can to support our sustainability agenda and drive down emissions as much as possible, while our work with Arcadis to develop a ULEV strategy for the airport will be critical to our success. All our partners are primed and ready to do their bit – we know Greater Anglia, for example, have the infrastructure, quality rolling stock, the necessary resources and high passenger demand. We just now need government agreement to push the button on four trains an hour.”
The event also included speakers from public transport providers and industry bodies. Among them was John Boughton from National Express, who discussed the untapped potential of coach travel as a cheaper, more environmentally friendly alternative to private cars. A discussion on ULEV strategies was led by Theo Panayi from Arcadis and Jamie Burles, Managing Director at Abellio Greater Anglia, updated delegates on the latest developments with the train operator following the pandemic.
The Transport Forum was held at the airport’s Radisson Blu Hotel on Wednesday (Nov 23).