Network Rail has called for final responses from rail users, communities, businesses and other interested parties on a potential new rail link that would directly connect the Great Western Main Line to London Heathrow Airport. The current 6 week consultation closes on 22 June.
The link would allow passengers throughout the West, and beyond, to travel directly to Heathrow Airport from Reading and Slough, without having to change at London Paddington. This would make journey times to Heathrow as short as 26 minutes from Reading and just 7 minutes from Slough. It would therefore help ease congestion on the roads, and bring economic growth and new jobs into the Thames Valley and surrounding areas.
The plans, which have been funded by the Department for Transport to enable a detailed proposal to be developed, are based on serving the needs of the airport’s existing two-runway capacity.
Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail’s Western route explained: “We have been working hard to refine our proposals as a direct result of the feedback we received. The updated plans would have the least impact on the environment and would deliver the fastest journey times. We’re also conscious of the impact on local communities so we’ve worked hard to make sure our plans work with other developments, such as transport or industry projects, in the area. We would like to hear views on our updated proposals before applying for consent to build the new link.”
The proposed Western Rail Link to Heathrow would leave the Great Western Main Line between Langley and Iver via a short stretch of open railway before entering a new 5km tunnel. The tunnel would pass under Richings Park and Colnbrook and then join existing rail lines underground at Heathrow Terminal 5.
The majority of the proposed rail link is therefore underground. However, the new tunnel would require up to five access buildings above ground along the route, with two of these buildings also providing ventilation.
Residents and interested parties are invited to provide feedback on the proposals to help finalise the designs. The detailed proposals have been published online at www.networkrail.co.uk/heathrow and in local venues (including specified Council offices and libraries).
There have been 18 consultation events in and around the local area to enable local people to find out more, ask questions and express their views. It is possible to respond to the consultation online, by email or in writing via a freepost feedback form. This phase of consultation will close on Friday 22 June.
Following the consultation, all responses will be analysed and Network Rail will publish finalised plans and hold public information events in late 2018/early 2019. A Development Consent Order application will subsequently be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in 2019. This will seek the required consent to build the new railway in line with the plans that have been developed, with a final decision by the Secretary of State for Transport.