Consultation opens on Heathrow western link

Residents and businesses in Slough – along with those across the west, south west and Thames Valley – are being consulted on Network Rail’s updated plans for a new link connecting the rail network from the west to London Heathrow.

The proposed link would include a 5km tunnel from the Great Western Main Line to Heathrow Terminal 5, enabling passengers throughout the west to travel to the airport from Slough, Reading, Twyford and Maidenhead, without the need to change at Paddington station. This would mean faster, more convenient journeys for passengers, with travel times expected to be around seven minutes from Slough and 26 minutes from Reading.

Shorter, more direct journeys to and from London Heathrow will also provide a significant opportunity for businesses across the Thames Valley, M4 corridor, south west and South Wales, enabling these businesses to save time and money, increasing their productivity and helping to deliver economic growth in these regions.

Mark Langman, Network Rail’s managing director for the Western route, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to provide us with feedback at our first round of events. This proved to be invaluable in helping us to develop the scheme and we are now at a stage where we would like to seek people’s views on our updated plans.

“This proposed link presents many opportunities for residents and businesses based across the Thames Valley, south west and west. It will not only provide millions of passengers with faster journeys, but it will also help to relieve congestion at London Paddington and open opportunities for thousands of businesses, enabling them to become more competitive and increasing economic growth.

“The Great Western Main Line is undergoing the biggest modernisation programme since the Victorian era and so it’s really important that in developing our plans for the Heathrow link, we take this extensive improvement work into account.

“Given how useful we found the feedback from the first round of events, we also want to ensure we capture the views of every stakeholder, business and community along the proposed route. This invaluable information will help put us in the best possible position to receive planning consent for the scheme.”

Ruth Bagley, chief executive of Slough Borough Council and Thames Valley Berkshire’s Local Enterprise Partnership lead on the project, said: “Significant progress has been made since the last public consultation – both with Sir Peter Hendy’s endorsement of a western rail link last December and the additional work Network Rail has been doing on the technical delivery of the project.

“It is vital that the millions of residents and businesses set to benefit from faster journeys to Heathrow have their say on these updated plans.

“As our highest strategic transport priority, we are working with Network Rail and other Local Enterprise Partnerships, particularly to the west of the airport, to ensure people know about the consultation and don’t miss the opportunity to comment.”

Councillor Sohail Munawar, commissioner for social and economic inclusion, said: “The rail link will transform travel to and from Heathrow, delivering a seven minute journey from Slough to the airport.

“Given the numerous personal and economic benefits this will bring Slough residents and businesses and the impact its construction will have in our borough, it is particularly important local people get to have their say.

“I urge people to attend one of consultation events, fill in the questionnaires and make the most of the opportunity to ask any questions.”

The second phase of the public consultation will take place between 23 February and 12 March, with a final submission date for feedback of 4 April.

The proposed rail link will leave the Great Western Main Line at a new junction between Langley and Iver station and link in with existing railway platforms at Heathrow Terminal 5. It will provide the capacity for four trains per hour from Reading to Heathrow via Slough, with alternate services calling at Twyford and Maidenhead.

As part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan, extensive improvement work is currently taking place across the Great Western Main Line, including new tracks and signalling, and electrification in preparation for the arrival of a new fleet of longer, faster, quieter and greener electric trains. To ensure these upgrades inform the detailed plans for the new Heathrow link and to enable every community along the proposed route to comment on the proposal, the company will now submit the planning application for the scheme at the end of 2017.

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