Network Rail publishes Heathrow link plans
by Jim Dunton Wed 5 February 2014, 4:00 pm
Infrastructure operator Network Rail has laid out proposals for a new link that would dramatically cut journey times between Reading and Heathrow Airport, potentially delivering £2 billion in economic benefits to the sub-region's economy.
It has identified a preferred route for the new rail connection between the Great Western mainline and Heathrow, known as the Western Rail Access to Heathrow - or “WRAtH” for short, and said the infrastructure could be complete by 2021.
Under the proposal, a new junction would be created on the mainline between Langley and Iver stations, which would link with a 5 kilometre tunnel for trains to access Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
Currently rail passengers from Reading and Slough who are bound for Heathrow have to travel into central London and then change onto dedicated airport services to reach the air hub.
Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail’s western area route managing director, said the proposals would aid business productivity and boost economic growth.
“Our plans for a new rail link to Heathrow from the west will dramatically improve rail links, reduce congestion on existing rail services and provide a boost to the local economy,” he said.
“It’s important that we take the opportunity to discuss these plans so we can ensure the investment made in a bigger, better railway delivers maximum benefit.”
Ruth Bagley, chief executive of Slough Borough Council and Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) lead for WRAtH, said Network Rail’s proposals were excellent news for the sub-region and the nation as a whole.
“Better access to Heathrow has long been a priority for the business community, LEPs and air passengers, and this project will deliver significant benefits over a wide area,” she said.
“Studies show that improving access to Heathrow will stimulate growth, and could deliver over £2 billion in economic benefits, over 40,000 additional jobs, and significant environmental benefits.
"Faster and more reliable connections will safeguard the prosperity of the Thames Valley, by putting businesses in closer contact with their global markets.”
According to the LEP, the new link would cut journey time from Reading to Heathrow Terminal 5 to just 28 minutes.
Network Rail said that if planning permission was granted, initial highways enabling work would begin at the end of 2016, with tunnel enabling work starting in early 2018.
It added that the project would be conditional on the creation of a satisfactory business case and the “agreement of acceptable terms with the Heathrow aviation industry”.