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Better rail links and Oyster card extension could help utilise existing airport capacity, says Assembly

2 September 2013

The London Assembly has today called for the development of a national strategy to realise improvements to surface transport access at all London airports. In a letter to Sir Howard Davies[1], Chair of the Airports’ Commission, the Assembly’s Transport Committee suggests ways that transport links to London's major airports could be improved.

The Assembly’s report Airport Capacity in London[2] showed that Gatwick, Stansted and Luton all had capacity to run additional flights. Poor transport links might be putting off Londoners from using this spare capacity.

The Committee's letter to Sir Howard Davies highlighted how passenger dissatisfaction with surface transport access could have an impact on people’s choice of airports. Only 31 per cent of Gatwick Express customers said the service represented value for money[3] and the West Anglia line servicing Stansted has become a significant concern for Stansted Airport Ltd who suggested around 1 in 6 trains were delayed by at least 10 minutes.[4]

The Committee has suggested that the following considerations on transport links should be discussed as part of the aviation consultation.


  •          Rail access at key international airports should be a priority area for future rail investment, as set out in Network Rail’s market study for London and South East[5], especially where traffic congestion and unreliability could cause issues for passengers.
  •          Extending Oyster card out to Gatwick and Stansted airports could encourage more passengers to use these airports by making journeys easier.
  •          Airlines could do more to inform their customers about rail travel, especially at airports where it is assumed car travel would be far quicker than rail due to poor passenger knowledge.

The Assembly’s report showed that there is still relatively low uptake of public transport with most airport passengers choosing to travel by car. In 2010, 31 per cent of passengers at Heathrow used private car and 26 per cent used taxis. There were similarly high proportions at Gatwick, Luton and Stansted[6].

Val Shawcross AM, Chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee, said:

“Luton, Stansted and Gatwick all have spare airport capacity that might prove useful to determining the UK’s future aviation policy.  However, transport seems to be a key barrier preventing passengers from travelling to alternative airports.

“Prioritising rail projects that improve access to our major airports, extending Oyster card boundaries and better marketing are just some of the ways that could encourage passengers to use alternative airports. We ask the Airports’ Commission to look seriously at the ways improving transport links could unlock capacity.”

Notes to editors:

1.      Letter from Val Shawcross, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee, to Sir Howard Davies, Chair of the Airports Commission (see attached).

2.      Airport Capacity report – London Assembly

3.       Passenger Focus’s rail passenger survey (2012)

4.       Evidence provided from Stansted Airport Ltd, p398

5.      Network Rail’s market study for London and South East

6.      London Assembly Transport committee’s Aviation Capacity in London report, May 2013, p23

7.      Information on the London Assembly’s Transport Committee.

8.      Valerie Shawcross AM, Chair of the Transport Committee, is available for interview. Contact details below.

9.      As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.

For more details, please contact Sheena Craig in the Assembly Media Office on 020 7983 4603.  For out-of-hours media enquiries please call 020 7983 4000 and ask for the Assembly duty press officer.  Non-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit, Greater London Authority, on 020 7983 4100.