Revealed: The brand new £1.3bn railway line that will connect Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire to Heathrow and get holidaymakers from Guildford to the airport in less than half an hour – is YOUR station on the route?
- Southern Rail Link would connect Heathrow T5 with South Western Railway
- Capital cost of the project was most recently estimated at £1.3billion in 2017
Sadiq Khan has backed a proposed new railway link to connect Heathrow Airport with South West London, Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire and cut journey times.
The London Mayor revealed the chances of the so-called Southern Rail Link scheme moving forward have increased in recent months due to a ‘number of factors’.
The project would see the existing Heathrow Terminal Five station linked to the South Western Railway network with new track joining up at Staines-upon-Thames.
Trains from Heathrow would then be able to run via Twickenham and Richmond or Hounslow and Brentford, eventually reaching Clapham Junction and Waterloo.
There would also be a second branch from Heathrow to Virginia Water, which would then run onto Woking and stations beyond in Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire.
This would mean trains from the three counties could connect with the Elizabeth line beyond Heathrow towards Central London – and the proposed Old Oak Common station for HS2 services to Birmingham which are set to begin in the early 2030s.
The capital cost of the project was most recently estimated at £1.3billion in 2017, but this is likely to now be significantly higher due to the rising costs of construction.
A map shows the proposed Heathrow Southern Railway Link which Sadiq Khan has backed
Separately, there is also a proposed Western Rail Link to Heathrow which would connect the airport to Langley via new track – removing the need for those travelling from Berkshire to change at Hayes and Harlington for services to the airport.
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This western link was put on hold in April 2021 due to the pandemic, but it has gained important political support after a group MPs backed the scheme in March.
Heathrow is currently connected to the rail network by the Heathrow Express to Paddington; recently-opened Elizabeth line through Central London towards Shenfield or Abbey Wood; and the London Underground’s Piccadilly line towards Cockfosters.
However, those living in Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire who want to make it to Heathrow often need to get a coach service called ‘RailAir’ which departs from either Reading, Watford, Guildford and Woking train stations.
The new rail connection would significantly reduce journey times – with Terminal Five accessible in 19 minutes from Woking, 29 minutes from Guildford, 30 minutes from Farnborough and 43 minutes from Basingstoke.
By way of comparison, getting to Heathrow from Guildford by train currently takes around two hours, or 45 minutes by car.
The scheme is not being led by Transport for London (TfL), but rather a company called Heathrow Southern Railway Limited (HSRL) which wants to build and own the infrastructure.
HSRL has proposed that train operators could run passenger services on the route by paying them an access charge – which would be overseen by the Office for Rail and Road regulator.
Projected rail journey times if the Heathrow Southern Railway Link was to be constructed
One of the key issues for going ahead with the project has been the high number of level crossings in the South West outside London, which would mean further delays for road users if more trains are passing through, reported IanVisits.
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A suggested potential workaround put forward by HSRL has been a partially tunnelled route.
It is also understood that Heathrow Terminal Five station already has two extra platforms for future expansion, which are still empty and could be used by such a link.
Mr Khan’s backing for the Southern Rail Link was revealed when he was asked about the project in a written question by Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the London Assembly.
She asked him: ‘Do you support the Southern Access to Heathrow Airport project and what discussions have you had with Government and the private sector about this project?’
And he replied last Wednesday: ‘I welcome the useful role that a Southern Rail Link to Heathrow could play in supporting a shift to sustainable modes, while transforming access to Heathrow Airport for passengers and staff from South London, Surrey and Hampshire.
‘I am aware that a number of factors coming together in recent months have increased the prospects of a scheme moving forward.
‘The Greater London Authority and Transport for London maintain regular dialogue with a broad range of interested stakeholders as we look to resolve the issues which have obstructed progress to date, while ensuring that any scheme meets the needs of Londoners and does not impact the reliable operation of the railway network.’
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, pictured on the Jubilee line on August 29, has backed the plans
Mr Khan also backed the project in an interview with the Evening Standard today, saying: ‘We want to make it as easy as possible for people to leave their car at home and get to the airport when they’re travelling and so having good public transport is really important.
‘I’m really proud of the Elizabeth line that is now serving Heathrow. But if you’re in that part of London, South West in particular, and outside of London it can be quite challenging to get to Heathrow using public transport.
‘It’s a good example of investing in infrastructure that benefits the climate but also creates jobs and benefits people, making it easier to commute to Heathrow.’
In June, Baroness Vere of Norbiton, the Government’s transport spokesperson in the House of Lords, said: ‘Government remains committed to improving rail access to Heathrow airport and our ambition is that any Southern Access to Heathrow scheme is funded and delivered by the private sector.
The Elizabeth line connects Heathrow to Central London and onto Shenfield and Abbey Wood
‘Proposals need to be developed in a way that does not require government funding and secures significant benefits. We continue to discuss options and engage with the promoters as they work to resolve these outstanding issues.’
Sources within the Department for Transport told MailOnline that there is currently no Government led proposal to develop a Southern Rail Link to Heathrow and no specific discussions have been taking place with the Greater London Authority.
It is also understand that any proposal would need to be developed in a way that does not require Government funding and secures ‘significant benefits’.
TfL and the Mayor’s office both declined to comment to MailOnline today.
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