London Stansted managing director Gareth Powell has called for the return of four trains per hour between the airport and London Liverpool Street Station.

Restoring the service between Stansted Airport and London Liverpool Street is key to delivering vital sustainability targets and supporting the airport's growth plans, Powell said.

The frequency of the service dropped significantly during the pandemic from four to two per hour. However, Stansted is the fastest recovering major airport in the UK, and with passenger numbers almost back to pre-pandemic levels, the airport needs four trains per hour to be reinstated, its MD stressed.

According to Powell, the reduced frequency has made rail less appealing and less convenient for passengers and employees, which has in turn encouraged many to switch to private cars or taxis, contradicting one of the key pillars of the UK Government's recent aviation strategy, which is aimed at securing a sustainable recovery from COVID.

More than 50% of those travelling to or from Stansted did so by bus, coach or train in 2019. However, the latest Civil Aviation Authority modal share data shows an 11% decline in the use of rail as a proportion of all trips to the airport compared to 2019’s figures.

Addressing more than 100 transport experts, business partners and community groups at the annual Transport Forum, which took place in London on November 23, Powell said: “The Government’s decision to cut the Stansted Express from four to two trains per hour, owing to reduced passenger numbers and the financial impact of COVID, was perfectly understandable at the time. Now the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, we’re fast returning to 2019 volumes, and we therefore need a higher frequency, more convenient rail service, the likes of which serve the other major London airports.”

Speaking after the event, Powell added: “Our future plans and ambitions for sustainable growth, including the whole aviation sector achieving net zero by 2050, are clearly matched by our business partners. [Transport firms] National Express and Greater Anglia are committed to doing all they can to support our sustainability agenda and drive down emissions as much as possible, while our work with Arcadis to develop a ULEV [ultra-low emission vehicle] strategy for the airport will be critical to our success. All our partners are primed and ready to do their bit. We just now need government agreement to push the button on four trains an hour.”

Image: London Stansted Airport