A third and possibly final consultation is opening on plans to build a new rail link that will allow direct connections between Reading and Heathrow Airport.

While there are currently good rail links from London, people travelling from the west have to head into London then back out again — not only adding to the journey time, but putting additional pressure on the railway out of London.

The rail link, known as the Western Rail Link to Heathrow (WRAtH) would make journey times to Heathrow Airport as short as 26 minutes from Reading and just 7 minutes from Slough.

The latest six-week consultation will include details of the proposed benefits of the new railway as well as how any construction and environmental impacts will be managed

Building on the 1,000 responses received during two previous rounds of public engagement and consultation in 2015 and 2016, the final round of consultation will run for six weeks from 11 May until 22 June 2018.

The plans, which have been funded by the Department for Transport to enable a detailed proposal to be developed, are based on serving the needs of the airport’s existing two-runway capacity.

The proposed Western Rail Link to Heathrow would leave the Great Western Main Line between Langley and Iver via a short stretch of open railway before entering a new 5km tunnel and then join existing rail lines underground at Heathrow Terminal 5.

The majority of the proposed rail link is therefore underground. However, the new tunnel would require up to five access buildings above ground along the route, with two of these buildings also providing ventilation.

From 11 May, the detailed proposals will be published online at www.networkrail.co.uk/heathrow

Network Rail will publish finalised plans and hold public information events in late 2018/early 2019 with planning permission expected to be applied for later the same year.

This is slightly later than originally expected back in 2015, so pushing the completion date back to likely 2024.

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. Martin Lunnon says:

    OK, I’m being very stupid here (and haven’t read up on the previous history), but why can’t they just build a curve from the great western mainline to the existing Heathrow link to make a triangular junction

    • Ian Visits says:

      Even if the existing tracks could carry the extra trains, the triangular junction would involve demolishing a lot of houses and warehouses.

    • SteveP says:

      Even if a triangle junction was mostly underground? I’m all for this “missing link” but it does seem overkill – and an oversight that the Crossrail work did not include a LHR – Reading connection. I suppose his does open up the possibility of through services Reading/LHR/Paddington and vice versa

    • Ian Visits says:

      Where would you put the extra tunnel portals though?

      If you look at a map, you’ll see that there just isn’t a suitable site until you get out to Iver, and by then, you might as well head to T5 anyway.

  2. J P says:

    I really really hope that for once this line’s route has been planned with one eye on the future.
    Any third runway’s extra terminal buildings are apparently planned to slot into the existing “toast rack” central run. Bit of a squeeze but if they say so, fine.
    Now if this new line could run nearer the posited position of said runway, there it would be waiting for any future terminals built near runway 3.

    • J P says:

      I stand corrected. Following today’s announcement in Parliament of the intention to go ahead with the third runway, I notice from the plans that there is indeed a terminal building next to it.
      All the more reason for this railway to do a sharp turn to the right upon leaving terminal 5 and connect with the new terminal.
      It can’t be beyond the realms of possibility to do this surely. Otherwise we end up with another loop and branch folderol like the Piccadilly line today.

  3. E says:

    Strange omission in your information here. Passengers from the West use the Rail Air buses from Reading train station to Heathrow.

    Or they say “£$%^% it. If I’ve got to use a bus anyway…” and take a coach direct to Heathrow.

    • Chris Bonham says:

      Indeed, Railair operates a very regular service from Reading train station to Heathrow (Terminal 5 and the Central Bus Station, not Terminal 4). Through ticketing is also possible if a person is travelling from further west by train then onwards to the airport.

    • SteveP says:

      I’ve seen it but never used it. The announcement of the “RailAir Coach” does have a certain completeness to it 🙂

  4. Paul Jefferies says:

    I’m still not entirely clear on this, is the planned new line an end-on connection to the existing tracks at Heathrow, with the possibility of through running Reading – Heathrow – Paddington, or is it going to use the currently unused extra station box at T5 (is it above or below the existing station?) and be a stand alone operation? Obviously option one would be preferable, but maybe they want to continue keeping the express as a separate premium service?

    • Jimbo says:

      The existing station box at T5 has spare platforms, with space at both ends to connect into existing lines. So if/the South-west connection is ever built, it could end up with 4 platforms going in three directions.

  5. Andrew Jarman says:

    Logically just extend Crossrails T5 services in the new tunnels onto Reading via Langley. Why make a new GWR limited service using pathways that could bring addtional through trains into London

  6. Martin says:

    Yet more evidence T4 is being turned into the pariah terminal as far as transport links go.

  7. Malcolm says:

    Getting from this link to T4 looks like a right pain

  8. Andrew Gwilt says:

    What about connecting it with the proposed Heathrow Airport Southern Rail Link as it’s to be built that will divert awsy from Staines towards Heathrow Airport Terminal 5. And to merge/connect with the Elizabeth Line.

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