New transport schemes for A4 make progress

Tram or monorail between Hammersmith and Heathrow back on the agenda


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Crossrail choose Turnham Green as interchange station

An existing tram system operating in Croydon. copyright Mark Jansen

Despite the focus of attention on the Crossrail scheme and the Uxbridge Road tram other projects to improve transport in West London have not been abandoned. A detailed study has revealed that a light rapid transit system linking Hammersmith and Heathrow would cost less than 300 million to build and the spotlight looks set to return to this scheme and another ambitious project for a monorail scheme linked to Brentford FC's plans for a state of the art stadium.

In 2001/2 the Hounslow Council undertook investigations into light rapid transit (LRT) within West London. This was in response to increasing pressure being placed on transport infrastructure in the area from new developments, particularly in the Great West Road and Heathrow locations. Ove Arup & Partners were appointed by the Council to undertake a preliminary assessment of options for LRT provision in the borough and adjacent areas.

On the basis of the low benefit:cost ratio that this study calculated, an initial approach to Transport for London for support for the proposal was declined. They are known to prefer a tram scheme for the Uxbridge Road which their studies suggest has a much higher benefit to cost ratio (up to 3.5:1 compared to 0.75 to 1 for than the A4 scheme). This is partly due to the considerably higher level of current bus patronage along that route.

However, this project is meeting significant local resistance, as residents are learning the plan requires the closure of the Uxbridge Road at certain points. Hounslow Council planners believe that further detailed analysis may result in an increased benefit:cost ratio for the A4 route. The economic analysis conducted at the time did not take into account additional patronage from Heathrow Terminal 5 and from new developments along the Golden Mile. Furthermore, the revenue figures were based on bus fare levels, when arguably an appropriate fare would be somewhere between bus and tube levels for a faster and more attractive service than the current H91 bus.

Towards the end of 2002, the Brentford Football Club applied for planning permission to close their club premises at Griffin Park and develop the land for housing and open space. The Council granted this application provided a new stadium site could be secured locally. The Brentford Football Club Supporters Group ("Bees United") identified a suitable site to construct a new stadium plus additional developments, on SRA land at Lionel Road,Brentford. Bees United, in conjunction with engineering and property development companies Millhouse and Ambersham Group, created a plan to serve the new stadium site by monorail, linked to park-and-ride facilities at Western International Market.

In early discussions with the Council, Ambersham Group was briefed on the A4 LRT study (as described above) and, following a very preliminary survey of route options, stated that a monorail could possibly operate the Heathrow-Hammersmith corridor via the new stadium site, at lower cost than a tram service. Ambersham was of the view that a monorail service could possibly be operated on an entirely commercial basis (subject to more detailed analysis), part financed by "planning gains" from new proposed development clustered around monorail stations.

Earlier this year, Ambersham embarked on a study to examine the feasibility of a privately funded monorail scheme on the A4 corridor. The cost of the £100,000 study is being met entirely by Ambersham and the report should be published in early November. Ambersham has indicated that the results are positive, in terms of the potential cost-effectiveness of a route between Hammersmith and Hatton Cross, however the balance of the route through to Heathrow may be less viable.

At this stage, it would appear that the favoured route follows the A4 from Hammersmith to Henlys Roundabout via the Hogarth and Chiswick Roundabouts and the "Golden Mile" through Brentford, then via the A30 to Hatton Cross. Access to Heathrow, if achievable, would possibly be via the airport's Southern Perimeter Road. The total route length from Hammersmith to Heathrow Terminal Five would be approximately 21 kilometres, with stops at one kilometre intervals approximately.

The monorail has several advantages over a tram type transport system including more rapid construction and no loss of road space for existing traffic. However the tram system is a proven technology and the necessity to elevate the platforms for the monorail means that stations will could be unsightly for local residents. In addition the fixed infrastructure would possibly be an eye-sore to some people.

October 31, 2003