Rail-link plan flawed

I was most surprised by your article (25 September) about a scheme to run trains along motorway reservations. The study is a hypothetical design project carried out by undergraduate students. As part of the scheme to provide an alternative to the West Coast main line, the Liverpool students proposed a high-speed rail link connecting Liverpool […]

I was most surprised by your article (25 September) about a scheme to run trains along motorway reservations. The study is a hypothetical design project carried out by undergraduate students.

As part of the scheme to provide an alternative to the West Coast main line, the Liverpool students proposed a high-speed rail link connecting Liverpool and Manchester airports. This concept is fundamentally flawed.

The nature of a split airport site as proposed in the John Moores study does not stand up to scrutiny by anyone who is informed about the nature, economics and operations of the aviation industry. This piece of hypothetical academic research has no basis in the reality of airport and air transport activity.

The North West urgently requires investments and improvements to its rail network. At the airport some £60m is being spent on providing high quality public transport access.

We wholeheartedly support proposals to improve access into and within our region; however, we should avoid the distraction of plans that in business and environmental terms are naive, uncosted and unsustainable.

{{John Twigghead of planning & community affairsManchester Airport}}

Professor Lewis Lesley of Liverpool John Moores University responds:

Civil engineering design work undertaken by my students is part of a four year study to design a TGV line to link the NW of England (and Scotland and North Wales) to London and the high speed Channel Tunnel line.

Our project is based on the concept of using Eurostar-style trains running at 300km/h, thus making a transit of 70 minutes possible between London and Manchester, and 60 minutes to Manchester Airport, which will become the key junction of the high speed rail network.

The students have not proposed that Liverpool and Manchester Airports should cooperate. That is a requirement placed on the airports by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott at a press conference on 14 July, when he announced the go-ahead for the second runway at Manchester.

Bob Longworth, ground transport manager at Manchester Airport has been invited to Liverpool to inspect the work of my students but has so far declined. Their calculations show that a transit of less than 15 minutes between airports is possible.

A recent delegation of senior civil engineers from China and the UK’s Joint Board of Moderators who inspected the students’ work highly commended our initiative.

In this year’s project we have shown how Manchester Airport Station can be upgraded for under £10m to accommodate Eurostar trains operating between Manchester and London. With a one hour transit to London, Manchester could become the fourth London airport.

The cost of the proposed TGV line compares favourably with the planned upgrade of the West Coast main line.