Western Link Railway to Heathrow: Are You On Board?

Western Rail Link to Heathrow Fast train to HeathrowIn this article, we explain the plans and potential benefits of the new Western Link Railway to Heathrow (WLRtH). Are you on board?

The Western Link Railway to Heathrow (WLRtH) is a key transport project that, according to its supporters, will bring great economic and environmental benefits to the UK.

Goldstein Legal were at the recent UK Property Forum’s Slough Social, to learn more from Network Rail and other guest speakers about the scheme and what it means for the business community. Here’s what we discovered.

What is the Western Link Railway to Heathrow (WLRtH)

WLRtH is a proposed new rail line that will directly connect the west of the UK with Heathrow Airport. 

Currently, anyone travelling from the west to Heathrow Airport by train must change at Hayes & Harlington station or London Paddington to catch rail services to the airport. The WLRtH will change all this.

The new WLRtH line is planned to run from the Main Line, between Langley and Iver stations, directly to London Heathrow Airport. This will reduce travel times for passengers traveling to Heathrow Airport from the Thames Valley, South West, West Midlands, Wales and other parts of the UK. It’s also expected to cut congestion on major roads including the M4, M3, and M25. 

So far so good. But you may be thinking, what about the impact on the local community and environment? According to current plans, much of the WLRtH line will be housed in a 5km tunnel. This means the line will run underneath local green spaces such as Richings Park and Colnbrook (before merging with existing underground rail lines at Heathrow Terminal 5). These plans aim to reduce the visual and environmental impact on the local area.

Find out more about the plans for WLRtH at www.networkrail.co.uk/heathrow.

Guest Speakers Western Link Railway to Heathrow Tim Smith, Francis McGarry and Paul Britton

Guest speakers at the Slough Social: (left to right) Francis McGarry (Network Rail Business Development Director), Tim Smith (Thames Valley LEP CEO), Paul Britton (Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO)

What Does WLRtH Mean for the UK?

According to the Network Rail, environmental and economic benefits of WLTtH include:

The reduction in travel times will be the most appealing advantage of WLRtH for many travelers to Heathrow. For example, train journeys from Reading to Heathrow Airport currently take 63 minutes. According to Network Rail, WRLtH would reduce this travel time to 26 minutes. And with WLRtH, it would take just 6 mins to get from Slough to Heathrow Airport. It’s clear the scheme will shorten many commutes and get people to their holidays sooner!

Importantly, WLTtH will bring Oxford, Swindon and surrounding areas within the ‘Golden Hour’ (one hour’s travel from Heathrow Airport) for Foreign Director Investors.

All this means lower commuting times for many workers in the Thames Valley region. Plus better connections to the rest of the UK and international markets. These are just a few of the ways WRLtH is proposed to boost productivity and support economic growth in the Thames Valley and wider UK.

So, What’s Next? 

“Western rail access to Heathrow is Network Rail’s number one priority in the south west now.” – Francis McGarry, Business Development Director for Network Rail

As you can imagine, WLTtH is a big project. To make it a success, WLTtH needs support from the government, public and wider business community. Much of this vital support has already been achieved.

A recent Network Rail survey shows 75% of respondents ‘agree with the plans to improve access to Heathrow Airport from the west’. The final statutory public consultation for WRLtH was in held June 2018. Network Rail is now doing a full analysis of the consultation results.

The Department of Transport has granted funding for the project. Following a required ‘design freeze’ in August, the next stage will be to draw up detailed proposals for the scheme and submit a Development Consent Orders (DCO) (a requirement for all nationally significant projects).

It’s worth noting that the WLTtH scheme is a separate project from the Heathrow Third Runway expansion. The two projects will remain independent of each other. However, development teams will remain in close collaboration to aid the smooth progression of each project.

If all goes according to schedule, the main construction work on WLTtH will begin in 2022 and complete in 2027.

Although statutory public consultations have now ended, you can follow the WLTtH progress at www.networkrail.co.uk/heathrow and submit your questions to [email protected].

Goldstein Legal are a commercial law firm based in Windsor. Click here to find out more about how our expert legal team can help your business grow.