Track and signalling

20.03.18

New Heathrow southern rail link could be funded entirely by private sector

The Department for Transport has today revealed plans for a new southern rail link between Waterloo station and Heathrow Airport, which could be built entirely by private-sector firms.

It would be one of the first major infrastructure projects to be developed outside the government’s pre-prepared CP6 plans and signals a willingness to begin commissioning upgrades to the rail network through the private sector.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has called on firms to submit bids for the new 8-mile line, which is reported to cost as much as £1.5bn and would be built separately from Network Rail.

If a private firm was to be chosen for the project, it would mean they own the track and would apply access charges in order to draw a profit from the line.

Grayling likened the plans to a number of road infrastructure schemes in the UK which had been completed privately and offered “innovative ideas” and relieve the burden on public funds.

“This can also support our economic and housing aspirations to ensure everyone benefits from an enhanced rail network,” the secretary of state said.

“Heathrow is a perfect example of where this can make a real difference. Such schemes will help ensure the benefits of our major international hub are even more accessible to those across the west and south of the UK, providing vital links for travellers and exporters and attracting inward investment.”

While Network Rail announced a total of £35bn of government funding over the course of CP6, almost none of the investment was earmarked for completely new projects, meaning it is likely that much of the future infrastructure in the UK will work under the private investment model.

The news follows last week’s announcement that there will be special premium charges on the Elizabeth Line to Heathrow, although TfL said that prices across the rest of the line will be the same as similar journeys on the tube.

Top images: AmandaLewis

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