Plans to create a short new privately funded stretch of railway linking Heathrow to the south and west have been announced.
The plans, by Heathrow Southern Rail (HSR), would provide connections by train from Heathrow to Waterloo via Richmond, Sussex (and Gatwick) via Clapham Junction, and connect Surrey to Paddington and Old Oak Common (HS2) via Heathrow.
The new connections would help deal with the substantial increase in flights and passenger numbers which would come from the third runway. Government has emphasised that an expanded Heathrow must meet a requirement for a 55% public transport mode share and ensure that the current level of road traffic to the airport doesn’t increase.
HSR also aims to provide significant crowding relief to the South Western main line and the London Underground network at Waterloo for onward journeys. The London-bound fast line from Surbiton during the morning rush hour is already busier than any other single stretch of main line in Great Britain and Network Rail forecasts a need for an additional 60% capacity in the high peak hour by 2043. HSR say Crossrail 2 would solve this problem in the long term but that their proposal will provide critically important new capacity in the interim.
The proposed route is in a short section of tunnel from the west end of Terminal 5 station, then mainly on the surface parallel to the M25 to a junction north of Chertsey, together with a connection to the Windsor – Staines line.
This direct route delivers much faster journey times from Woking than the earlier ‘Airtrack’ proposals put forward some years ago. It also avoids the level crossings in the Egham area.
Services from Heathrow would use the existing Byfleet Junction, enabling trains to join the South Western Main Line “slow lines” between there and Woking. The junction at Byfleet already has a dive-under, avoiding any delays to trains an the intensively used “fast lines”
Overall, construction of the new infrastructure can be carried out with minimal impact on existing railway operations. The only impacts would be the new junctions on the Staines – Windsor and Virginia Water – Weybridge routes, both of which are lightly-used lines compared to the South Western Main Line.
The capital costs of Heathrow Southern Railway are estimated at £1.2 billion. HSR say they envisage construction will be privately financed, with HSR’s ownership remaining in the private sector after completion.
HSR is chaired by former London First boss Baroness Jo Valentine, and has former Arup director Mark Bostock on the board.