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.