A recent parliamentary debate on improving rail links to Heathrow Airport has agreed that such a rail link is a very good idea, but that it will need a lot more work to bring into existence.

Although Heathrow is very accessible by rail from the north and the east and will be easier from the west when a new rail link is built, at the moment, rail access from the south-west is very difficult.

It currently takes around 2 hours to reach Heathrow by rail from Guildford, or 45 minutes in the car – and so the argument put forward is that rail upgrades would help reduce car use. Unsurprisingly, barely a fifth of people heading to Heathrow from the south-west use public transport.

One of the difficulties of rail upgrades is that they can’t easily be bolted onto existing lines which are already packed full, but also due to the high number of level crossings in the south-west region, more trains means more delays for road users.

A number of proposals over the past 20 years have attempted to square this particular circle without success.

A tunnelled proposal being put forward by Heathrow Southern Railway was cited in the debate, noting that it avoids the busy level crossings at Egham, and could reduce journey times from Terminal 5 to Guildford to under 30 minutes — faster than the motor car.

(c) Heathrow Southern Railway

Terminal 5’s rail station was built with two additional, and currently unused platforms. Although earmarked for the planned link towards Reading and Bristol, they should have enough capacity for a regular south-western rail link as well.

Although the government is supportive of improving rail links, they are working on a model based on working alongside the private sector to fund, finance and deliver this scheme.

Heathrow Southern Railway says that their tunnels proposal could be open by 2027 if work started now.




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  1. John Ward says:

    Its not just the SW that has problems connecting by rail to Heathrow, all the south has problems. What is really needed is a kind of rail version of the M25 linking major routes routes around London and saving people the need to go into central London. This line, which could be built in phases, should start with a connecting Heathrow and Gatwick which would facilitate passenger connections which would be very useful.

  2. Melvyn says:

    Given how recent events may have delayed the building of Crossrail 2 for many years perhaps the simplest solution would be to extend Crossrail 1/ Elizabeth Line from Heathrow onto the South Western Rail network with a line similar to its south eastern branch . by which I mean using AC overhead electrification and its own separate tracks which could link various stations on various branches.

    This would have the benefit of providing new links to central London thus reducing pressure on Waterloo services.

  3. Rupe says:

    I’d also put in a south-facing spur from just outside HS2’s M25 tunnel portal at Great Missenden to the Western Rail Link to Heathrow. This would let some classic compatible trains to/from the North go direct to Heathrow T5, and possibly on via T2/T3 to Paddington instead of Heathrow Express. Travellers to/from Heathrow will typically have luggage & frequently travel in a group (often including children), making a direct Heathrow train much more useful than changing at Old Oak Common…

  4. AJ says:

    Pipe dream airport thoughts –

    With extensions of the Elizabeth Line under consideration, it would have been better if original plans had eastern termini at Southend and Manston airports.
    Further the proposals for Crossrail 2 should extend to termini at Luton in the north, and Gatwick in the south.

  5. M says:

    There are regular busses from Ashford that work very well its not all that bad.

    • ianvisits says:

      Great for people living in Ashford, but not much use for the very considerably larger number of people who don’t.

  6. Jeremy French says:

    I guess this seems more feasible than hs4 air. But also a bit more boring

  7. JM says:

    A western rail link would serve Reading, a station already a single change away from Heathrow. Services from Bristol won’t be diverted to run via Heathrow.

    A southern rail link could also serve Reading via Bracknell, but could also connect Woking, Guildford and even Gatwick Airport to Heathrow- all of which require long journeys via Central London to reach by train. The existing Gatwick-Guildford service could be extended to Woking and Heathrow. It’s a no brainier.

  8. Andrew Gwilt says:

    I still would think that it should get the approval. Same with the new rail link from Staines to Heathrow Terminal 5.

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