Richmond residents will breathe a sigh of relief after BAA's announcement it has ditched plans to build a new super-speed rail link through the borough.

The company confirmed yesterday it was shelving plans for a controversial rail link, which would have cut through the borough in order to connect Heathrow's Terminal 5 to locations including Reading and Guildford.

Councillor Clare Head, Richmond Council’s cabinet member for traffic, said: "Without more investment than BAA was prepared to make, the new fast train network to Waterloo would have lowered the level crossing barriers that already divide our communities for unacceptably longer periods.

"Adding more trains without any signalling remedy would have led to more delays at these crossings, which was unacceptable in our view. Already at some times of day the barriers are more down than up.

“Our position always was that if BAA would resolve the issue of the barriers being down for longer, we would support Airtrack in principle. Unfortunately, no investment has been forthcoming.

"Improving public transport to and from Heathrow and improving high-speed rail links are crucial issues, but changes should not come about at the expense of local people trying to go about their daily lives.”

Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith also welcomed the news.

Mr Goldsmith said: “Although like most people, I support improvements to public transport, BAA's proposed 'Airtrack' scheme would have caused mayhem locally, increasing waiting times at our level crossings by up to 5 minutes in the hour as well as physically dividing our community.”

BAA's announcment yesterday followed a public consultation which saw residents raise objections regarding issues such as the increased amount of barrier downtime the move would cause at station crossings like Mortlake and North Sheen and Barnes.

But it is believed BAA's lack of funds for the £675m project were also key to the decision to cancel Airtrack plans.

Heathrow’s surface access director Allan Gregory said they had listened to the concerns raised by local residents about the impact of Airtrack and worked hard to try and resolve issues including level crossings.

He said: "Despite our considerable efforts, including discussions with Network Rail and the local highway authorities, we have been unable to develop solutions which fully address these concerns.

“The project has also been affected by the comprehensive spending review and the likelihood that there will be no public sector funding support forthcoming for the project.

"We have considered alternative scheme options and how these might be funded but in the absence of securing additional funding in the current economic climate, Heathrow Airport is unable to justify meeting the full cost of the project and unfortunately we have no option but to withdraw Airtrack’s Transport and Works Act Order application."

He added improving rail services to Heathrow remained a key objective and they looked forward to working with the Department for Transport, Network Rail and others to realise their vision.