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Heathrow rail link delay branded ‘pathetic’ by MP

The slippages in the Western Rail Link to Heathrow project to late CP6 have been branded “pathetic” by Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart. Speaking to BBC Radio Berkshire yesterday, the Labour MP also suggested the link “does not have an effective champion inside the Department for Transport”.

The project requires a 5km tunnel from the Great Western Main Line to Heathrow Terminal 5, enabling passengers from the west to travel to the airport from Reading via Slough, without the need to change at Paddington. There would be up to four trains an hour from Reading to Heathrow, calling at Slough and Maidenhead or Twyford. Trains would take about 26 minutes, which is 35 minutes shorter than the current rail route via London.

Network Rail’s Enhancements Delivery Plan Update after the Hendy Review says the infrastructure would not be ready until ‘late CP6’, suggesting around 2023-2024, instead of 2021 as originally announced in 2012 and as Network Rail had been planning for until recently.

It blames difficulties in the Development Consent Order process and negotiations with landowners.

Julian Burnell from Network Rail said during the same interview that consulting landowners for the DCO was a “long process” and that the delay is not really anybody’s fault. But it’s “absolutely not” because the DfT is not giving the project a high enough priority, as alleged by Mactaggart, he said. “This is a lot of tunnelling, a brand new tunnel, it’s an entirely new stretch of railway, and that takes a lot of time and a lot of careful planning,” he said.

The plans originally went out to consultation a year ago, but Network Rail is about to start fresh consultations locally.

Works are now due to start in April 2019, following GRIP 3 approval in principle and GRIP 4 (single option scope defined) by August next year.  

The project also depends on earlier works being completed on GWML electrification, Crossrail, ETCS on the Western route, and the removal of the Heathrow Express depot at Old Oak Common to make way for HS2.


Linking To Heathrow   02/02/2016 at 13:22

It seems to be unbelievable that, in all the rail planning and building that's going on, there appears to be no thought given to a link from Clapham Junction to Heathrow. At a stroke, this gives access to those from the south-west, south and south-east via a single change (when carrying luggage that's a big win right here). It's a huge catchment area and would relieve the load on the other interchanges - primarily the London termini and Farringdon once Crossrail goes live - and cut journey times. After CR is live, everyone in that southern catchment area will have to go north into central London and change at least once. Bonkers.

Nonsuchmike   02/02/2016 at 15:41

Two things: firstly, it is a betrayal of the promises made in the noughties about rail links to H/Row from the west and south; once the link up from Staines was called into question, the obvious choice was from Clapham Junction as it serves both routes into Waterloo and Victoria in addition to a west link from Slough. Now that this has been put on hold for a second time, one wonders whether this administration has given up any pretence of offering good service to air passengers within the next five years as when this link does get under way the usage @ airports across the south will have increased by about 30 - 50% and their will be clamourings for better rail links to Gatwick, Luton and Stanstead. Get on with it now, is our call to build the tunnel to Terminal 5, and start the process to link LHR to OOC asap. The cost will not abate as time passes, and the savings are in wear and tear on roads, cars, lorries, people's patience queueing on the M25, M4 and other surrounding roads and harmful emissions made by those vehicles which undoubtedly reduce the health & quality of life for those travelling by road as well as the residents nearby. Also, we, the British public from around the country, need this link now, not in 5, 10 years time. You build it, we'll use it.

Huguenot   02/02/2016 at 17:45

I'm not so sure. The business case for the Western link will be much weaker when Old Oak Common is opened as there will be easy interchange from GW services there. The SW link to Staines should have priority. Platform space at T5 is already available and there could even be a link-up with Crossrail to provide a Staines-Heathrow-Crossrail through service. And if Heathrow doesn't get its third runway....

Mumbles   04/02/2016 at 18:32

Expect to be corrected but you don't have to go all the way to Paddington You can take Connect from Hayes and Harlington

Chris M   05/02/2016 at 02:29

Currently the timings of connections at Hayes and Harlington between Connect and GWR services are poor and involve a lot of waiting. Plus the premium fare from Hayes to Heathrow is prohibitively expensive. Almost no-one ever changes there to go west on the GWML, Heathrow Airport Limited seem happy to perpetuate this weird situation. I don't think they view the existing railway lines as being of value for anything other than being a premium link to central London.

Mumbles   07/02/2016 at 22:15

Just thought I would have a look on Rail Enquires 8am leave Hrow. As far west as Swindon they give every 2nd train as routed through H and H They are 20 mins faster ave. and are same price or cheaper than via Padd The major disadvantage is of course 1 or 2 extra changes with luggage from your holiday etc, but as you say not promoted by Hrow. West of Swindon they only route through Padd

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