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London provides a blueprint for how airport train service can be introduced in Chicago.
During construction of access tunnels under the airport, London ran train service to a station near the airport — with express bus service to the terminals. This is similar to the plan for an upgraded transfer station at O'Hare, though Chicago passengers will see better connections on the fast, efficient people mover.
Upon construction of access tunnels under Heathrow, the train station was moved beneath the terminals. Today, passengers can directly access the station after clearing customs in the International Terminal. London provides both express and local service. Express trains leave every 15 minutes and reach downtown London in 15 minutes. The local trains serve the same route every 30 minutes, with a 25-minute travel time.
In 2010 the service saw nearly 6 million passengers. It also runs at a profit.
Soon, the Heathrow station will connect to the CrossRail London network. London is currently building 13 miles of tunnels underneath the city to connect its east and west side rail lines. After CrossRail is completed, stations across the greater London region will have direct access to the airport.
Chicago can see similar benefits by extending O'Hare service through Union Station, and across existing, reconstructed tracks at 16th Street to reach McCormick Place and destinations on the South Side.