Reading to Heathrow train line delayed by two years – at least
The Great Western rail link between Reading to Heathrow will be delayed by up to two years. A DCO application to construct the new line was expected this year but has now been delayed until winter 2021/2022 – at the earliest. A spokesman for Network Rail said the Reading to Heathrow line has been delayed due to the court of appeal’s ruling against plans to expand Heathrow and the impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry. The Supreme Court will hear Heathrow’s appeal against the Appeal Court decision, on 7th and 8th October. If Heathrow was to win the case (a massive IF) then the rail link – to speed passengers getting to the airport – a new tunnel would be created connecting Reading to Heathrow in around 20-30 minutes, with passengers from Reading currently having to use the 50-minute Rail Air bus or go into London to get to the airport. Reading Station and Heathrow Airport both already have terminus platforms built for the line in anticipation of the scheme. The Department for Transport (DfT) is looking to fund the project with help from Heathrow Airport on the basis of expansion, apparently. (Though Heathrow is struggling financially to survive now …)
Reading to Heathrow train line delayed by up to two years
By Tevye Markson @TevyeMarksonLDR
Local Democracy Reporter (Reading Chronicle)
A railway line linking Reading to Heathrow will be delayed by up to two years.
The Great Western rail link will hook up Reading to Heathrow via Langley Train Station for people to travel directly to the airport.
An application to construct the new line was expected to be made this year but has now been delayed until winter 2021/2022.
A spokesman for Network Rail said the Reading to Heathrow line has been delayed due to the court of appeal’s ruling against plans to expand Heathrow and the impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry.
Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport at Reading Borough Council (RBC), said the project “should have been delivered years ago”.
While Reading East MP Matt Rodda said he is “concerned that the government seems to be watering down its commitment to the western rail link”.
READ MORE: MP Tan Dhesi ‘frustrated’ by constant Heathrow rail link delay
When the project is able to go ahead, a new tunnel will be created connecting Reading to Heathrow in around 20-30 minutes, with passengers from Reading currently having to use the 50-minute Rail Air bus or go into London to get to the airport.
Reading Station and Heathrow Airport both already have terminus platforms built for the line in anticipation of the scheme.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is looking to fund the project with help from Heathrow Airport on the basis of expansion, according to Cllr Page.
He said the case for the rail link was justified by the Davies Commission based on the existing airport and should not be part of the expansion debate but governments over the last ten years have “chosen to ignore that”.
Comparatively, he said the case for Heathrow expansion “is lifeless now” as “it will be years before we see air travel up to pre-pandemic levels”.
A spokesman for Network Rail said: “The Western Rail Link to Heathrow is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and planning permission can only be granted through a Development Consent Order (DCO).
“The DfT has been clear that whilst it fully supports the development of a Western Rail Link to Heathrow, this is subject to a satisfactory business case and the agreement of acceptable terms with the Heathrow aviation industry.
“In light of this, the DCO submission for Western Rail Link to Heathrow is now no longer expected to be made in 2020 but is anticipated to be submitted during Winter 2021/2022.
“During this time, the scheme’s environmental analysis will be updated to ensure it complies with new environmental regulations.”
Cllr Page said the delay is “probably the treasury putting on pressure to delay as many schemes as possible”.
He added: “Given the fact the rail industry is effectively renationalised, the treasury is in a strong position to say no to other projects.
“We will continue to lobby strongly for it and it remains one of Transport for the South East’s top projects.”
Mr Rodda added: “This is a really important link that would help Reading and the whole of the south of England.
“It is important local businesses and people travelling to the airport.
“I will be raising this with ministers and asking them to continue supporting the link.”
See much earlier:
NetworkRail plans for improved rail link to Heathrow T5 from the west, by tunnel, go on show
NetworkRail has put plans for consultation, for a new rail tunnel, connecting the main line into London from the west with Heathrow Terminal 5. The proposed link, subject to planning permission, includes a 3.1 mile (5km) tunnel from the Great Western Main Line at Langley to T5. This could cut journey times between Reading and Heathrow and reduce road congestion, if passengers travelled by train instead of by car. A series of public consultation events is to be held in Iver and Slough. The rail plan was given the go-ahead by the government in 2012. There would need to be a new junction created between Langley and Iver stations. There are claims that the rail link would mean a quarter of people in the UK “within one interchange” of Heathrow. The tunnel only travels under 2 houses so is not expected to cause too much disruption locally. The tunnel would go ahead regardless of whether there is a new runway, or not. It is expected the tunnelling would take a year. It has the potential to make journeys from the west faster and easier. The timetable is for informal consultation now; formal public consultation in summer 2015; submission of application in early 2016; work starts spring / summer 2017; work completed and trains running by the end of 2021.