A western rail link connecting Heathrow Airport to Reading and beyond is gaining political support after MPs backed the scheme.

The rail link would leave the mainline railway to the north of Heathrow Airport and then run in a new tunnel to Terminal 5, where there is already a couple of platforms in an empty station waiting to be used. It’s expected that most services would terminate there, and passengers would swap services to get to the other terminals. In theory, the trains could also connect with the central terminals, although not Terminal 4.

It’s also theoretically possible that the trains could carry on to Paddington, creating a loop service, although the main benefit of the rail link would be to improve services between Heathrow and the west of England.

At the moment, many people, especially if coming from the west of Reading have to head into Paddington and back out again. The Western Rail Link would remove that extra journey, not just saving time, but also reducing congestion on the trains out of Paddington.

Although the rail link is classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, funding for it is dependent on contributions from Heathrow Airport and the aviation industry in general.

Due to the pandemic, the project was put on hold in April 2021.

A meeting of MPs who are members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Western Rail Link to Heathrow held last week agreed to resume campaigning for the rail link to be built.

Co-chair of the group, Tan Dhesi MP said: “Wonderful to see so much cross-party support in Parliament for the Western Rail Link to Heathrow. As MPs representing constituencies across the UK, we know the huge benefits our constituents could experience once this vital link is built.”

“For the good people of Slough, the Thames Valley region and our country as a whole, the Western Rail Link to Heathrow would make travel to and from the busiest airport in the UK greatly more convenient, cutting traffic and congestion and stimulating our local economy.”

At the moment, the rail link project remains on hold at Network Rail, and unless funding is secured, will remain a project on hold.


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  1. Chris Swann says:

    A LHR link from the west could easily be engineered using the existing Heathrow Express link line from the GWR main Line.
    It would obviously require a crossover flyover so that traffic from the west could cross onto the Heathrow link tracks.

    • Adam Edwards says:

      Heathrow junction faces east, so trains would have to stop and reverse to do this. Or you have to build a west to south curve line. The proposed route in to Heathrow from the west could allow the Elizabeth line to run in a loop, which would be more efficient

  2. Kevin Roche says:

    I’m also hoping that the project for the Southern Link will be revived. A train from Woking was promised when T5 was built and then excuses were made that there were too many level crossings between Staines and Chertsey once planning approval was given. A seemingly viable private attempt to build a tunnel seems to have been forgotten.

  3. Cjw714 says:

    This project should have been built 30 years ago and it would have saved me a lot of time over the years. However, these days when we should be encouraging people to fly less it is hard to justify making it easier to get to an airport.

  4. GoringMan says:

    Although I now live out west of Reading I’m convinced that the revised Southern link plans, which remove the level crossing issues which killed Airtrack, make a lot more sense than the Western access were it a choice between the two (it’s not, but funding realities probably make it so).
    Never understood why by far the cheapest and often fastest route to T5 from the west isn’t better used – GWR/Elizabeth Line from Reading to West Drayton and then 350 bus. Maybe because the ever-grasping HAL don’t make any money from it and certainly don’t publicise the route? Admit it’s not great with a lot of luggage, but has always worked well for me and those I’ve recommended it to.

  5. HeathrowCommuter says:

    The Southern link is by far a better option if it is to be either/or. There is more than sufficient capacity from Reading via Bracknell, although the proponents of the Southern link seem to prefer to push the connections further south to Guildford/Basingstoke. A Reading-Bracknell-London service to Heathrow and then Paddington would speed up journey times from the Wokingham/Bracknell/Ascot to London (via OAC), whilst also freeing up paths for a Waterloo-Richmond-Heathrow service. The connections from Richmond and that end of London to Heathrow are also woeful. They could reintroduce the peak time extras to keep Richmond-Bracknell-Reading trains for those that commute that way.

    AIUI, the sticking point was that private funding depended on the DfT guaranteeing payment for track use regardless if trains ran or not, which for some reason they refused to do.

    • Terry Jones says:

      I’m just worried Heathrow/BAA will start arguing for another runway if any of these proposals are acted on.

  6. John Roberts says:

    Given that all GWML trains will stop at Old Oak Common once HS2 is opened, the benefit of the western link appears to be a little less than it previously was. Certainly for travellers west of Reading the perception of doubling back a considerable distance going all the way into Paddington will be lessened.

  7. Tim williams says:

    Such narrow mindedness ,there used to be a perfectly good branch line from west drayton into staines running via Colnbrook and Poyle, this was shut in the early 80s so the m25 could be built on the trackbed ,if it was still open it could be mainly used ,with a short spur from poyle to Heathrow, this branch also linked to the southern mainline during ww2 as an avoided route should any of the mainlines be taken out by enemy action ,the government/s of yesterday and today are so narrow minded and stupid ,the railways were wantonly destroyed in favour of roads ,even now there is little political will to reverse the damage done.

    • Keith says:

      See East-West rail as a similar case of short-sightedness, in closing the line, allowing houses to be built on parts of it, then trying to reopen the connection.

    • David Winter says:

      I think the useful parts north from T5 are still there. A single track freight line. Would need a new western chord, but far less tunnelling.

      Another thought is to convert the HC-T4 link to a shuttle with separate tunnel/platform at HC (T1/3 or whatever it is this year) and extend from T4 to interchange at Feltham.

  8. Tim says:

    It seems a shame to terminate this at T5 and not continue to Heathrow central. Getting to T4 requires TWO CHANGES! But I do wonder what the long term plan for T4 is. If the new runway and terminal is built, then T4 could be closed. I imagine the space could be usefully used to relieve the cramped cargo terminal.

    • GoringMan says:

      Yes, the long-term LHR Masterplan was (maybe still is?) to close T4 and add additional terminal capacity between T3 and T5 in a classic “toast rack” configuration. T4 is horrid operationally with the need to taxi across the southern runway to / from the northern one. However the “short” third runway proposals also envisaged a T6 between the northern and new runways with similar constraints. The removal of any cross-runway taxis was one of the advantages of the fairly radical Heathrow Hub proposal to lengthen the northern runway allowing parallel arrivals and departures from it. HAL haven’t given up on their 3rd runway plans, but suspect the climate (in all senses..) may have moved against them now.

    • GoringMan says:

      Sorry, just rechecked and the 2019 LHR Masterplan retained T4, “T6” was a future northern T5 satellite and taxiways were provided around the end of the new central (ex-north) runway. I’m sure there was an older plan to remove T4, maybe linked to ideas of a new runway to the south of the existing airport. The Heathrow Hub proposal was (is..) significantly less costly and reduces taxi distances but was clearly Not Invented Here!!

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