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THE Chamber Stakeholder Group recently heard from the project managers of two projects which, while they would take place some 200 miles from Plymouth, could make a very significant difference to Plymouth-based businesses and residents.
Heathrow, despite all the talk of Boris' Island, is clearly going to continue to be the UK's principal airport for overseas destinations for many years to come.
Getting to Heathrow from Plymouth is painful right now.
One can drive and incur high car parking charges.
One can take a bus, coach, or for those well-heeled travellers a taxi (yes, this is often done).
Or one can take a train to Paddington, change, usually with some delay, on to the expensive Heathrow Express and come back the way one has just come, 30-odd miles to Heathrow. The latter adds about an extra 45 minutes to an hour to one's journey.
So wouldn't it be great if one could take a train from Plymouth straight to Heathrow?
Indeed it would.
Well, both the projects we heard about aim to do exactly that. The Heathrow Hub scheme is undoubtedly the "all-singing all-dancing" one.
It would use spare land to the north of Heathrow to create a modern rail terminal linked into the strategic national rail network.
Airline passengers would disembark there, check-in their baggage and then take a monorail to their terminal to go straight through security and into the departure lounge.
It is a superb concept. Unfortunately its implementation is inextricably linked to other projects such as electrification of the rail network, HS2 and Crossrail. It is, therefore, going to be expensive and take a long time to deliver.
Worse, there is no commitment from the coalition Government to fund the Heathrow Hub.
The second project is the Western Rail Access To Heathrow project (WRATH).
A simpler scheme than the Heathrow Hub, it involves opening a railway line from Reading to Heathrow.
Passengers would change at Reading on to a train using the new line, and take about 20 minutes to reach Heathrow.
It is possible that there might be direct trains to Heathrow via the link, which would avoid the inconvenience of having to carry baggage across Reading station.
The attraction for people living in the South West is that it would avoid the extra time and hassle associated with going into London and back out again.
While WRATH is not perfect, it is cheap (!) at £500million, can be implemented by 2021 and has been approved in principle by the coalition Government.
As was said at our Stakeholder Group meeting: "This is ours to lose". The beauty of both projects is that they are not mutually exclusive.
WRATH could be implemented first and the Heathrow Hub could come in later, once the uncertainties surrounding the other projects on which it depends have been resolved.
The Chamber is therefore fully behind WRATH and wishes the project team every success.
To find out more about the scheme and register your support, visit wrath.thamesvallerberkshire.co.uk