Network Rail is to open a consultation on the western rail access to Heathrow Airport (WRATH) plans.
The final round of consultation on the potential new rail link from Reading and Slough to Heathrow Airport opens on 11 May 2018. Linking the Great Western Main Line to Heathrow is one of the most important ways of increasing the use of public transport to get to the airport, thus relieving local roads of some of their traffic.
The link would allow passengers from the West to travel directly to Heathrow Airport from Reading and Slough, without having to change at London Paddington. This would make journey times to Heathrow as short as 26 minutes from Reading and just 7 minutes from Slough.
The plans, which have been funded by the Department for Transport to enable a detailed proposal to be developed, are based on serving the needs of the airport’s existing two-runway capacity.
Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail’s Western route explained: “We have been working hard to refine our proposals as a direct result of the feedback we received (in the previous consultations). The updated plans would have the least impact on the environment and would deliver the fastest journey times. We’re also conscious of the impact on local communities so we’ve worked hard to make sure our plans work with other developments, such as transport or industry projects, in the area. We would like to hear views on our updated proposals before applying for consent to build the new link.”
The proposed Western Rail Link to Heathrow would leave the Great Western Main Line between Langley and Iver via a short stretch of open railway before entering a new 5km tunnel. The tunnel would pass under Richings Park and Colnbrook and then join existing rail lines underground at Heathrow Terminal 5.
The majority of the proposed rail link is therefore underground. However, the new tunnel would require up to five access buildings above ground along the route, with two of these buildings also providing ventilation.
Finalised plans are expected to be published in late 2018/early 2019. A Development Consent Order application will subsequently be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in 2019. This will seek the required consent to build the new railway in line with the plans that have been developed, with a final decision by the Secretary of State for Transport.
The consultation will run until 22 June 2018.