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Improving rail links to Heathrow

Started 11 May 2018 00:00 — Ended 22 May 2018 23:59

Started 11 May 2018 00:00 Ended 22 May 2018 23:59
Status: Closed


Improving rail links to Heathrow from the West and beyond

We are seeking your views on our proposed design to build a new rail link between the Great Western Main Line and London Heathrow Airport.

The 6.5km rail link would allow passengers throughout the West, and beyond, to travel directly to Heathrow Airport from Reading and Slough, without having to change at London Paddington.

It would deliver a faster, frequent, more reliable direct train service and help to reduce congestion and pollution on the M4, M25 and other nearby roads.

Our plans, drawn up on behalf of the Department for Transport, are based on serving the needs of the airport’s existing two-runway capacity

We received a total of more than 1,000 responses to our informal consultations in 2015 and 2016. We have listened carefully to your feedback before drawing up these more detailed designs. We would now like to hear your views on our updated proposals before applying for consent to build the new rail link.


Detailed plans

We are proposing to build a new railway link that would leave the Great Western Main Line between Langley and Iver. It would then descend underneath the main railway line into a cutting before entering a 5km tunnel.

The tunnel would pass under Richings Park and Colnbrook and then merge with existing rail lines underground at Heathrow Terminal 5. The tunnel would require up to five access buildings above ground along the route, two of which would provide ventilation.

The proposed design has been selected because it would have the least impact on both the local community and the environment, as well as delivering the fastest journey times. We have also worked hard to make sure our plans work with other developments in the area, including transport or industry projects.

What’s changed?

Since the last round of consultation:

  • We have made the gradient of the stretch of open railway line steeper. This would remove the need to alter the platforms at Langley station and reduces the impact on Horton Brook.

  • We are considering two possible routes for the final section of the tunnel, closest to Heathrow.


Option A is shown on the map by a dotted orange line. It would allow trains to turn back at Terminal 5, as well as run through to Terminals 2 and 3.

Option B is shown on the map by a dotted green line. It would allow trains to run to Terminal 5, through to Terminals 2 and 3 and on to London Paddington.  This option would remove the section of track required to allow trains to turn back, shortening the tunnel by 100m. This would reduce construction time and costs, and remove the need for an access building close to Heathrow.


  • We have increased the flood storage area, in line with the latest Environment Agency guidance on climate change mitigation measures.

  • The proposal to relocate the Heathrow Express depot to Langley, as part of the HS2 project, is no longer going ahead and this is why it is not included in our design or assessments.




The main construction work would take approximately five years to complete, including 15 months of 24-hour tunnelling. We will seek to minimise the effects of construction on local communities.

We have identified a number of sites for our construction compounds that would involve some temporary change of land use during work. We have also identified a number of possible routes our vehicles could use with a view to reducing the impact on local residents as much as possible.

To build the tunnel, a large quantity of material would need to be removed from site. We are committed to sustainable construction and would remove the majority of material by rail, working with local projects to find a suitable reuse for the material.


Local roads and minimising disruption

The proposed design means the section of Hollow Hill Lane that runs under Chequers Bridge, near Langley station, would need to close permanently. We are working with the local highways authorities to minimise the impact of this permanent closure on the surrounding road network. We would also work closely with the local highway authorities to minimise any disruption to local roads during construction.



A full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will be presented in an Environmental Statement as part of our application for consent. This will identify any significant short and long-term impacts on the environment and include measures to reduce or manage them.

Our preliminary assessment has identified a number of requirements, including the need to:

  • Minimise noise and vibration

  • Minimise the release of dust and emissions into the atmosphere

  • Carry out planting to make up for the loss of habitats


Other developments in the area

There are a number of other developments within the vicinity of our proposals. These include:

  • Highways England Smart Motorway Improvements (M4 & M25)

  • CEMEX mineral extraction works

  • HS2 Old Oak Common station

  • Possible expansion of Heathrow Airport


We are aware of the importance and potential impact of these developments. We will continue to talk with everyone involved to make sure our plans are compatible while aiming to minimise disruption to communities and rail passengers.


What are the benefits?

The proposed rail link would:

  • Deliver a new, faster, frequent, more reliable direct train service to Heathrow with four trains per hour in each direction. All trains would call at Reading and Slough and alternate trains at Twyford and Maidenhead. Journey times could be as short as 26 minutes from Reading and 6 to7 minutes from Slough.

  • Significantly improve rail connectivity to Heathrow from the Thames Valley, South Coast, South West, South Wales and West Midlands

  • Provide an alternative form of transport for passengers and the airport workforce currently travelling by road

  • Ease congestion on roads, including the M4, M3 and M25 resulting in lower CO2 emissions equivalent to approximately 30 million road miles per year

  • Generate economic growth and new jobs across the Thames Valley and surrounding areas


Western Rail Link to Heathrow Consultation Documents

Before any work can commence on the WRLtH, a Development Consent Order must be applied for and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be carried out to support this application. A Preliminary Environmental Information Report has been produced which forms an early part of the full EIA process, specifically to support consultation on the proposed scheme.  This document together with a suite of useful supporting documents (listed below) can be found at the bottom of this webpage:


  • The Consultation Overview Report
  • The Preliminary Environmental Information Report
  • The Preliminary Environmental Information Report Non-Technical Summary
  • Eight factsheets

How to have your say

We want your feedback on our proposals to help finalise our designs, you can do this by completing the online survey or

by email to

For further information you can also call Network Rail’s 24-hour National

Helpline on 03457 11 41 41 or follow us on Twitter @networkrailwest

Consultation is open from 11 May to  22 June 2018.


What happens next

This phase of public consultation closed on 22 June 2018 - thank you for all of your feedback.

We will now analyse all the comments we have received.

In the meantime if you have any further comments or questions about the plans, you can send us an email at:

To register in interest in the scheme you can also call the national helpline on 03457 11 4141.