BAA aims to stop 'murder' of the Gatwick Express

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The Independent Online

A rearguard action is being launched today by the airports operator BAA to prevent the closure of the Gatwick Express, the 30-minute train service from central London to the airport.

The Strategic Rail Authority wants to phase out the service from the start of 2006 to create more capacity for commuter trains on the Brighton mainline. However, BAA said the scrapping of the Gatwick Express would put an extra one million passengers a year into cars and set the airport back by 20 years.

BAA's campaign, called Stop the Murder of the Gatwick Express, is being backed by charter airlines, rail users, local authorities and tourist bodies.

It has not received the public backing of the operator of the service, National Express. But a BAA spokesman said this was because the company did not want to antagonise the SRA while it was bidding for other rail franchises.

The service carries 3 million passengers a year - more than half those who travel to Gatwick by train - but has been hit in recent years by the transfer of a large number of British Airways flights away from Gatwick.

BAA claimed the scrapping of the service, which runs non-stop to Gatwick from Victoria station every 15 minutes, would force air travellers with heavy luggage to wait on overcrowded platforms and then jostle for space on trains with stressed commuters. Paul Griffiths, the deputy managing director of the airport, said: "The effect of the SRA plan would be disastrous for air passengers and commuters alike. At a time when London is looking to its main airports as gateways to the world as part of the 2012 Olympic Games bid, it is simply unthinkable to welcome visitors to Britain through an airport with no fast and efficient rail journey to the capital."

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