Thursday 15 Sep 2016
Formal consultation provides positive feedback for new rail link to Heathrow from the West
Plans for the Western Rail Link to Heathrow project have been well received by stakeholders, passengers and the business community, according to a recent consultation by Network Rail.
More than 80% of respondents indicated their support for proposals to improve connections to Heathrow Airport from the West during the first phase of formal consultation.
The proposed Western Rail Link to Heathrow will connect the Great Western Mainline to the country’s busiest airport, improving accessibility for passengers from the south coast, south west, South Wales and West Midlands, greatly reducing travel time for these passengers.
Current proposals would see the creation of a new line from Langley to London Heathrow, where services would call at Reading, Twyford, Maidenhead and Slough, before going on directly to Heathrow Terminal 5.
Services from Reading could take passengers to Terminal 5 in 26 minutes, cutting the current travel time by more than half, while passengers from Slough could arrive at Heathrow in seven minutes.
The business case for the Western Rail Link to Heathrow is based on the demand and capacity that Heathrow currently serves.
An Atkins report commissioned in 2011 predicts the project would provide a large boost to the economy, generating approximately £800 million in inward investment and creating 42,000 new jobs. The proposed new link could also reduce the long-term impact of road travel on the environment, encouraging more people to use the train and lowering CO2 emissions equivalent to circa 30 million road miles per year.
During this consultation period, over 350 people attended 15 public events at venues in Iver, Langley and Colnbrook.
The project received more than 950 feedback responses by email, letter and feedback cards, with 71% of respondents indicating they ‘strongly agreed’ when posed the question: ‘Do you agree with Network Rail’s plans to improve access to Heathrow from the West?’. A further 10% agreed, while 6% were undecided, 3% disagreed and 10% strongly disagreed.
The majority of responses came from the Thames Valley area and in particular from Iver, Langley and Colnbrook, where most of the construction work would take place if the plans got the go-ahead.
The project team has collated this feedback and is reviewing the preferred design option with Network Rail’s lead design contractor, Jacobs UK Ltd., which will be presented at the final phase of consultation, planned for early 2017. Possible mitigations for the environmental impact of the project will be presented at the consultation.
Councillor Sohail Munawar, leader of Slough Borough Council, said: “I’m pleased that so many of our residents and businesses responded to the consultation. A western rail link to Heathrow will bring significant economic benefits to the borough and the strong support for the project shown in this consultation clearly shows that locally we recognise the positive impact and huge personal and economic benefits we’re set to gain from having faster journeys to the airport.
“We will be encouraging residents and businesses to respond again once the preferred design option is unveiled by Network Rail next year.”
Peter Read, chairman of Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “A western rail link to Heathrow continues to be our top strategic transport priority, so we are pleased to see that there is overwhelming support for this nationally significant project.
“The rail link will put 20% of the UK population within one interchange of Heathrow and bring significant economic benefits to a large area of the UK – the South Coast, South West, South Wales, West Midlands and of course the Thames Valley. These areas will receive a boost from the reduced journey times and improved accessibility to Heathrow.
“We will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure the project moves forward at a pace that allows us to reap the benefits at the earliest opportunity. Design work has moved forward since this consultation and we are looking forward to seeing it presented for further consultation in 2017.
“We would like to thank our partners, including other Local Enterprise Partnerships, business representative organisations, local authorities and individual businesses, for taking the time to respond. We will continue to keep them updated with progress.”
The consultation newsletter will be available on Network Rail’s website (www.networkrail.co.uk/westernraillinktoheathrow). Local residents to the project’s proposed construction area will receive a hard copy of the newsletter through their doors soon.
Residents and other interested parties can contact the project team at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Network Rail National Helpline on 03457 11 41 41.
About Network Rail
We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.
Every day, there are more than 4.7 million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.
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