Network Rail is to host a meeting for construction firms interested in a £900 million contract to build a new railway tunnel to Heathrow Airport.

The Western Rail Link to Heathrow (WRLtH) project has been developing options to provide a rail link for trains coming from Reading to the airport – using the already built, but so far unused railway platforms at Terminal 5.

At the moment, a railway passenger would either switch to a shuttle bus service at Reading, or head into Paddington then head back out again.

The plans would see a new rail spur leave the line half way between Langley and Iver and then dive into a tunnel that would run to Heathrow airport, and could potentially even run though to Paddington station as well.

The proposed main contract structure of the programme will be based on three discrete packages of work where the design and construction of each package can be completed largely in isolation of the other packages.

The first package will consist of works to construct the Rail Intersection Bridge (RIB) underneath the GWML and will include all civil engineering, track, OLE and associated works to create both the bridge and the new rail junction with the GWML.

The second package will consist of the works to construct the 2 tunnels into T5 and will include the procurement and operation of the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) and the construction of the shafts, cross passages and sprayed concrete sections.

The third package will consist of the fit-out of the tunnel section, including track, OLE, ventilation, etc.

If the plans are approved, construction on the rail link could start in 2021 with the first trains arriving at Heathrow from 2028.

The Heathrow Express had previously said that it will bid to run the trains when the tunnel is built, although its recent decision to hive off management of the service to GWR may put that in doubt.


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  1. Simon says:

    Interesting to see this in the public domain 😉 The residential canal boat moorings to the west of Hollow Hill Lane (with vehicle access from that road too) will be very affected, as last I heard they were going to build a new depot for the HE trains (if they get the contract, as above) there (between the railway & canal, extending the site that was Langley Oil terminal), as they’ll be displaced by the HS2 depot.

    A 24hr rail servicing depot alongside once sleepy residential canal facilities isn’t going to go down well.

  2. Nudrev says:

    WHY not build a totally new airport fit for purpose, OUTSIDE of London. For a start the inhabitants will get less poluted air.

    • Maurice Reed says:

      They should have built Boris Island.

    • MilesT says:

      Along the route of HS2 which would create an airport for a big chunk of England, augmenting BHX, and viable for Manchester etc.

  3. Malcolm Watt says:

    Linking the airports of London together by ultra fast maglev (UK Ultraspeed) and to other airports throughout the country would eanble us to use empty flight slots and reduce, if not eliminate, the need for most internal flights.
    Save on construction and disruption around Heathrow, reduce pollution and noise, provide an alternative to HS2 connectingthe major cities of the country together.
    The latest news is that the German Transport Department is starting to reinvestigate maglev. Perhaps they realise the mistake they made. The Chinese are developing their own ultra high speed system, but are still a couple of years behind. Transrapid could be up and running very quickly.

    • Carl-Åke Utterström says:

      Malcolm Watt. Do you have source to the German Transport Department where they say that they will reinvestigate the Transrapid. Are the company behind Transrapid prepared to operate and build the new maglev system?

  4. JP says:

    That’s why I love this blog. None of your workaday comments here, oh no!
    Impassioned pleas or fantastical feasibilities sparked off from the daily diet of ‘need to know news’ to ‘what on earth wonders,’ it’s a down right delight.

  5. Gstar says:

    Wow, that map is misleading. The space between Langley Station and Hollow Hill Road is grossly incorrect. Looking at the real map shows how little space there is there.

    • Frederick Levy says:

      In the public consultation, it mentions that “It would allow trains to run to Terminal 5, through to Terminals 2 and 3 and on to London Paddington.” I wonder if in the long term that this will lead to a change in the Elizabeth Service timetable, with trains running on from Heathrow to Reading etc

    • James says:

      Nope – It’s to scale. Hollow Hill Lane is 900 metres from the station building.

    • David Winter says:

      Looks about right to me.

  6. Chris says:

    We seem to have been talking about this for years and it’s still doesn’t seem any closer to happening. I read recently that something like only 50% of people arrive or depart Heathrow by public transport which is shocking and explains why most of the nearby motorways regularly turn into car parks.
    The shuttle from Reading is almost as much of a rip-off as the Heathrow Express so everyone I know who travels up from the west either drives, uses National Express or change at Hayes and Harlington for the 140 bus.

    • David Winter says:

      Looks about right to me.

    • David Winter says:

      I suppose it was necessary for the dust to settle on where London’s extra air capacity was to be added. Now that Boris Island and extra runways at Gatwick and Standsted are ruled out, the way is clear to build the business case and go to tender.

  7. ADS says:

    surely it would be massively cheaper and quicker to build a new link and dive-under up where the existing Heathrow spur joins the main line ?

    it’s not like the Heathrow spur will be congested – even after Crossrail is fully up to capacity.

    • ianvisits says:

      The people living in the houses that would have to demolished, and the people working in the warehouses might object to such a plan — and you’re pushing more trains down a single corridor.

      Much more sensible to build a new line, that doubles the carrying capacity and doesn’t make people homeless.

  8. Alec Moore says:

    £900 million will end up 2 or 3 times more. Spending huge sums whilst closing Hollow Hill Lane is absolute madness. A new bridge or tunnel would be an almost insignificant cost, and prevent the chaos that was demonstrated with a trial closure

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