GWML Heathrow link to cut journeys by 30 minutes
A new £500m rail link to Heathrow Airport has been announced, which could cut journeys on the Great Western Main Line by up to 30 minutes. Transport secretary Justine Greening announced the funding as part of future plans on airports.
New track will be laid from Slough to Heathrow and is planned for completion by 2021.
Service specification has not yet been agreed, but the link would mean passengers would no longer have to travel via London Paddington to get to the airport, and people could travel directly fromCardiff.
Greening said: “We are providing funding for a new rail line from the Great Western main line near Slough to Heathrow which could provide significantly improved connections from theThamesValley, the west of England and Wales to the airport and journey time savings of up to 30 minutes.
“The next stage will be looking to the industry on a proposed route and it should be in operation by early 2020.”
A Network Rail GRIP 2 study last year concluded the most likely route would include a 3.72 mile stretch of track and tunnel linking platforms at Heathrow Terminal Five with the GWML east of Langley Station. Those promoting the scheme, known as WRAtH (Western Rail Access to Heathrow), said in a recent letter to Greening: "Estimates suggest that completion of GRIP 3, 4 and 5 could be achieved by 2016 at the latest, and at a cost of around £20m."
Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan said: “The Wales Office has always supported and recognised the importance of connectivity to Heathrow as a major UK air hub for Welsh business and Welsh passengers.
“The new rail link will not only provide a more convenient link, but will also be a key driver of growth for the region.”
First Great Western’s managing director Mark Hopwood said: “The commitment to £500m to fund western rail access to Heathrow is great news for local economies across the network.”
Hopwood had previously backed the idea saying it would “only take around four to five miles of new railway across land which is currently not really used for anything”, adding: “We think getting a link into Heathrow would not be as difficult as other railway projects being thought about. This is not going to happen overnight, but when I speak to the business communities of Slough, Reading, Swindon, Bristol and South Wales, they all seem very enthusiastic.”
The plans will be included in the Government’s HLOS, due to be published this month.
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