THE creation of thousands of jobs, economic prosperity through supply and service industries and a direct rail link into Europe: The Heathrow Hub could be the perfect remedy to Yiewsley and West Drayton's problems.

For the past three decades, the towns have suffered a loss of shops and pubs, while at the same time experiencing population growth which has put a strain on services.

Yiewsley High Street was last year named as the worst hit by the recent recession, with about 33 per cent of all shops forced to close because of financial hardship.

If the largest employer in the area is Heathrow and its allied industries, then by extrapolation, a third runway denied is an employment opportunity lost, whatever the rights or wrongs of the thing.

Step up Heathrow Hub. If confirmed, it could attract unprecedented investment to the area.

The possibility of taking a train directly from West Drayton to Paris, with a journey time of just two and a half hours, could be an economic coup for the area, and could also connect with Brussels and Amsterdam.

Pie in the sky? An example of the regeneration a continental rail link can bring has been seen in Ashford, the small Kent town home to the hub serving the Channel Tunnel. The town now boasts a booming high street and designer shopping outlet.

Judith Armitt, managing director of Ashford's Future, the organisation responsible for overseeing the £2.5billion development of the ancient Kent market town, said: "HS1 is the most important economic boost to the south east in recent years, and has totally changed Ashford's prospects, but it is just one part of a continuously developing transport network that is helping to open up the region to new international and domestic markets."

Dean Spurrell, communication officer at Ashford's Future, added: "Ashford has become synonymous with the high-speed line, and the station has really put us on the map.

"Thousands of houses are being built even still, with many jobs being created as investment continues."


HOW would a 12-platform rail interchange come into being? The Heathrow Hub would be built in phases, each part added to a network connecting the entire country and mainland Europe:

* PHASE ONE: The station itself will be constructed, straddling the Great Western main line. Crossrail and Airtrack services will also be connected, with a tunnel built for a people mover system to connect passengers and baggage to all Heathrow terminals.

As part of this, some of the Great Western, and Basingstoke to Reading services would need to be electrified. Cardiff, Swansea, Bristol, Cornwall, Exeter and Southampton would all then have a direct public transport link to Heathrow, easing pressure on the motorway network.

* PHASE TWO: This would see High Speed One connect to the hub. It would involve a tunnel all the way from St Pancras to the hub.

Euston mainline station would also link in, and passengers would be able to take trains from the hub via St Pancras and Stratford International to mainland Europe.

Flight numbers would reduce - after all, passengers could land at the airport then take a train immediately to destinations such as Paris and Brussels, with onward connections - one of the reasons the coalition government were happy to scrap Heathrow's third runway.

* PHASE THREE: The third phase would involve the connection from the hub to the north, which would itself be done in two phases.

The high-speed rail link to Birmingham would be built, along with services to Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and the Chilterns.

* PHASE FOUR: A full north of England and Scotland network will be added, including Manchester, Leeds, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The 250mph trains will be so fast, it is estimated they could travel to Edinburgh in two hours and 35 minutes.

The finer details would need to be thrashed out once, and if, government support is obtained.

Something as large as this would go way beyond the cut and thrust of local planning permission and would be likely to involve special 'hybrid' bills in parliament.

Hillingdon Council have had briefing sessions with Arup but has been non-committing; neighbouring South Buckinghamshire County Council has thrown a fly in the ointment by pledging to oppose the hub, because of the effects it would have on the village of Iver and its surrounds.

Veolia Water, which owns the water treatment works at the western end of the hub site, is believed to have identified an alternative site for its operations.

Big test for engineers Arup

ARUP, the engineers behind the proposed Heathrow Hub, have a reputation as transport problem solvers.

In the 1980s, a similar dilemma was facing the Conservative government over the Channel Tunnel rail route.

Trouble was brewing over a proposed route which would have required up to 5,000 south London homes to be demolished.

Arup stepped in and designed a route using existing track and sent it east, neatly sidestepping the problems. Without Arup's vision, it could be argued, the Thames Gateway development and the London's 2012 Olympics may never have got off the ground.

Now with stretches of the Chiltern countryside under threat from High Speed Two (HS2), history seems poised to repeat itself, unless an alternative can be found.

The way north could lie up the M40 corridor.

Mark Bostock, a consultant director at Arup, was the man responsible for creating the High Speed One (HS1) route.Today, he is focusing his efforts on HS2 and the hub.

Arup does not want to get into specifics, and would not answer a list of questions the Gazette wanted to put to them.

But it is believed that no homes in West Drayton are under threat from the hub proposals, and Arup seeks to push the line north using existing track.

Arup told the Gazette: "If the Mawhinney Review rules in favour of the hub, we will do everything to consult fully with local groups and residents going forward."

The Mawhinney Review, tasked by the government to assess ways to link the country's proposed high-speed network to Heathrow could report its findings as soon as tomorrow (Thursday).

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is believed to be keen to link HS1 - St Pancras to Europe via the Channel Tunnel - to HS2, with a hub at Heathrow seen as the perfect location to join the two.

But everything might not be clear cut so soon, as the taskforce reporting to Mr Hammond about ways to connect to the airport may not report back until next month.

The hub would house a 12-platform interchange.

The Mawhinney Review is also considering other options, including a spur or a loop, but a hub is favoured by Arup.

Something that could work against it is the disruption caused by the construction phase, and the pressure it would place on the borough's roads.

Once built, noise and light pollution could impact upon residents. MP John McDonnell, (Lab, Hayes and Harlington) has described it as a 'huge and devastating threat to the area'.


* Tonight (Wednesday), 8pm, Laurel Lane School, Laurel Lane, West Drayton

* Tomorrow (Thursday), 8pm, Bell Farm Christian Centre, South Road, West Drayton

* Saturday, noon, Dot Com Cafe, Byron Way, West Drayton