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.