Heathrow Western Access comes to a Standstill

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Class 170101

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Heathrow Western Rail Access has come to a standstill


Initially earmarked to begin construction this year, plans to build a western rail link has been brought to a “controlled pause” due to the impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry, raising concerns whether project may ever be implemented.

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You would think with a pandemic and reduced demand that now would be a good time to construct it and disrupt fewer passengers.
 
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busesrusuk

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Another wasted effort on a project that is now presumably being kicked into the long grass. No doubt another load of studies, consultants, prevarication which will add a good few more million to the bill should it ever get built.

I personally think that air travel will bounce back quite quickly and given the time it will take to actually build the thing it smacks as a missed opportunity to get on and get it built...
 

Bald Rick

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It relies on a financial contribution form the airport, and for obvious reasons they are not in a position to do that now.

But this isn’t news. It was announced that the Transport and Works Act Order application was postponed about a year ago.
 

mwmbwls

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Does this have implications for the proposed southern link. Is there scope to integrate the two projects?
 

swt_passenger

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Does this have implications for the proposed southern link. Is there scope to integrate the two projects?
Seems highly unlikely. Southern access is unlikely to proceed at all either, so it’s not exactly going to catch up Western access is it? With Southern being intended to be paid for by the private sector I think it’ll be at a lower level of life support...
 

zwk500

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Does this have implications for the proposed southern link. Is there scope to integrate the two projects?
The Southern link has a major problem getting paths beyond Feltham, and I understand there's a few level crossings that can't sensibly be resolved. Anything the Southern link would be attached to would see it's business case destroyed by the work required between Staines and Waterloo.
 

swt_passenger

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The Southern link has a major problem getting paths beyond Feltham, and I understand there's a few level crossings that can't sensibly be resolved. Anything the Southern link would be attached to would see it's business case destroyed by the work required between Staines and Waterloo.
The expensive part of Southern Link is the proposed new route towards Woking, compared to that Waterloo issues are a sideshow. But this is getting very off-topic, despite @mwmbwls raising it; the mods have not been keen on attempts to link the western and southern discussions before.
 

mwmbwls

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Mods - In view of te concern expressed by SWT, if you could be so kind as to transfer this thread to speculative ideas I wpuld be most grateful. The scenario that we face as I see it is that te government is reigning back on investment in significant rail projects as a result of the impact of COVID. Rail projects tend to be eminently postponable. Apart from ongoing projects I expect to see a reigning back of Government capital expenditure, especially in those sectors prone to time and cost overruns. Given its general proclivity to favour private sector involvement; projects that generate reliable investor returns are liable to be preferred. The Piccadilly Line extension to Heathrow was an LUL project. However the Heathrow Connect Services access tunnel and trains were funded by HAL who ran a premium service to Paddington. A similar project southwest and westbound to a limited number of destinations that avoids mixing passengers from the west and south west clogging trains via Heathrow may have more appeal to the Government and the Airport.
 

Mikey C

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Mods - In view of te concern expressed by SWT, if you could be so kind as to transfer this thread to speculative ideas I wpuld be most grateful. The scenario that we face as I see it is that te government is reigning back on investment in significant rail projects as a result of the impact of COVID. Rail projects tend to be eminently postponable. Apart from ongoing projects I expect to see a reigning back of Government capital expenditure, especially in those sectors prone to time and cost overruns. Given its general proclivity to favour private sector involvement; projects that generate reliable investor returns are liable to be preferred. The Piccadilly Line extension to Heathrow was an LUL project. However the Heathrow Connect Services access tunnel and trains were funded by HAL who ran a premium service to Paddington. A similar project southwest and westbound to a limited number of destinations that avoids mixing passengers from the west and south west clogging trains via Heathrow may have more appeal to the Government and the Airport.
A bit one sided to put this postponement just down to the government reigning back rail investment, when the bigger picture is the whole future of Heathrow Airport

If the pandemic leads to a permanent drop in air passenger numbers (with business travellers finding they can reduce flying and use Zoom instead), that will serious affect all Heathrow related expenditure, whether the 3rd runway, new terminals or additional rail links
 

MotCO

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The Telegraph on-line on Sunday 25th July reports that private investors are reluctant to fund the cost of the Heathrow / Langley western rail link, and the rail minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, will ask the Treasury to pay for it.


Taxpayers may have to fund most of a £900m bill to build a train line linking Heathrow to the West Country after funding from the airport and other private investors fell through.
Chris Heaton-Harris, the rail minister, said he would ask the Treasury to pay for building a line between Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and the express line that links London Paddington with Reading and the west of England and Wales.
The Western Rail approach to Heathrow has been nine years in the making, having first been proposed by Theresa Villiers, then transport minister, in 2012.
Under Chris Grayling, the former Transport Secretary, it was included in a series of rail building projects that would be funded by private capital. The state owns Britain’s tracks and other rail infrastructure through government-owned Network Rail.
Hopes of it being built appeared to have been dashed in April when Heathrow withdrew its funding as a result of its finances being squeezed by the coronavirus pandemic.

But Mr Heaton-Harris told a parliamentary committee last week that he would recommend that taxpayers stump up the funds instead as part of Rishi Sunak’s spending review this autumn.


He conceded that the funding from the private sector will be “much smaller” than previously envisaged.
“Whatever it is, I will be making, in the spending review, a bid from our department for the Western Rail Link to Heathrow.
“Obviously, the bigger the private sector contribution, the better the business case and the more favourably that will be seen by my Treasury colleagues.
“But my commitment to you and Heathrow still stands. It will be included in my department’s spending review bid.”
Network Rail said that the Department for Transport had asked it to delay beginning the project by a year until the winter of 2022.
A spokesman for the organisation added: “The scheme is subject to a satisfactory business case and agreement of acceptable terms with the Heathrow aviation industry, so can only progress to [planning] submission when funding has been agreed, including an appropriate financial contribution from Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL); this requires endorsement by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as the relevant regulator
“The Government has been working closely with HAL, but the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the aviation and rail industries. This in turn has affected Heathrow Airport’s ability to commit to a financial contribution to the scheme at this time.

View attachment 100289

A map of the proposed development to connect Heathrow Terminal 5 with people coming from the West Country Credit: Network Rail
“The Government will continue to work closely with HAL to agree funding arrangements that offer value for money for the taxpayer and for the users of the airport.”
A spokesperson for Heathrow said in April: “Heathrow remains committed to the Western Rail Link, a project which will facilitate sustainable travel and regional connectivity.
“We’ve proposed a way for the scheme to progress in line with the revised timings announced in December 2020 and we continue to engage with the Government and the regulator to find a solution that will unlock the project’s much needed benefits in a post-Covid world.
“The CAA and the DfT now need to work with us to agree terms that will enable this project, which has the widespread support of businesses and MPs, to move forward, despite the airport’s current challenges.”
 

Mikey C

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I can't blame the airport not wanting to cough up at this current time, with passenger numbers decimated. And I can't see a great incentive for the government to pay for it at the moment either
 

JonathanH

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I can't see a great incentive for the government to pay for it at the moment either
Indeed, protect the alignment, but there can't be any reason to do this at the current time. Hopefully, once the rebuild of Hayes & Harlington is complete and Crossrail is running more trains to Heathrow, this will give improved access from west of Heathrow, at least for local journeys.
 

kevin_roche

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Personally, I can see a much better case for building the southern access first. It would provide services that are not easy to duplicate with a single change of train and encourage less car traffic at Heathrow. Unfortunately, that is even less likely for the same reasons.
 

edwin_m

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As I understand it, all trains on the GWML will stop at Old Oak Common in future - line capacity won't allow anything to pass through non-stop. This means there will be a quicker route to Heathrow from the west than the current backtracking at Paddington, weakening the case for the western link.
 

The Ham

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Personally, I can see a much better case for building the southern access first. It would provide services that are not easy to duplicate with a single change of train and encourage less car traffic at Heathrow. Unfortunately, that is even less likely for the same reasons.

I would be inclined to agree that the Southern Access, assuming ongoing lower air passenger numbers, could be the better to build first.

Whilst a lot of the benefits of the Western Approach would be due to reduced numbers of doubling back, I would suspect that quite a few would be those who were heading to Reading through Basingstoke (those from the likes of Salisbury, Southampton, Winchester, etc.) and so would still benefit.

The impact of rail passenger numbers at SWR could also have a part to play. However them being low could actually make it better.

For instance, if you ditched the Basingstoke Stoppers (and made people change to services at Farnborough or Woking outside the peaks to get to Waterloo) and served those stations by the Heathrow/Paddington services you could make some cost savings to the SWR services.

The overall impact would be fairly limited (a lot of travel on the Basingstoke Stoppers is local, so a change would have limited impact on overall numbers, whilst during the peaks there'd still be at least 2 direct to Waterloo services) however with a better range of places that people could get to by rail the benefits would likely be higher overall.

If rail passenger numbers increase back to pre Covid levels before the works are finished then you've got 2 paths which could be reinstated (although they may be better suited serving other stations/routes).

Again if they serve other stations/routes then it could be that it improves things for the wider rail network more overall than having to keep things as they always have been.

As I understand it, all trains on the GWML will stop at Old Oak Common in future - line capacity won't allow anything to pass through non-stop. This means there will be a quicker route to Heathrow from the west than the current backtracking at Paddington, weakening the case for the western link.

Indeed, again this is where the Southern Approach also improves things as it provides a connection to Woking and the wider SWR area (including the Portsmouth line) which otherwise is difficult/slow to get to from the GWR network.
 
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zwk500

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I would suspect that quite a few would be those who were heading to Reading through Basingstoke (those from the likes of Salisbury, Southampton, Winchester, etc.) and so would still benefit.

For instance, if you ditched the Basingstoke Stoppers (and made people change to services at Farnborough or Woking outside the peaks to get to Waterloo) and served those stations by the Heathrow/Paddington services you could make some cost savings to the SWR services.

The overall impact would be fairly limited (a lot of travel on the Basingstoke Stoppers is local, so a change would have limited impact on overall numbers, whilst during the peaks there'd still be at least 2 direct to Waterloo services) however with a better range of places that people could get to by rail the benefits would likely be higher overall.

Indeed, again this is where the Southern Approach also improves things as it provides a connection to Woking and the wider SWR area (including the Portsmouth line) which otherwise is difficult/slow to get to from the GWR network.
The southern access would need to get through Staines first. The issue has always been level crossing down time, and the only way to manage it is to withdraw other services on the Windsor/Reading lines, which are likely to be the first lines in the country to recover passenger numbers. Capacity on the SWML west of Woking isn't really a problem, although Woking Station and Junction itself will be an issue, as will Basingstoke for a regular service (although Flyovers are regularly looked at for both locations, which would solve most problems).
 

kevin_roche

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The southern access would need to get through Staines first. The issue has always been level crossing down time, and the only way to manage it is to withdraw other services on the Windsor/Reading lines, which are likely to be the first lines in the country to recover passenger numbers.

You are right there. I think that Heathrow Southern Railway proposals for a tunnel to Virginia Water would solve most of that problem for the link to Woking. A flyover at Woking would be needed for trains to continue to Guildford.
 
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You are right there. I think that Heathrow Southern Railway proposals for a tunnel to Virginia Water would solve most of that problem for the link to Woking. A flyover at Woking would be needed for trains to continue to Guildford.
There are some very busy level crossings between Virginia Water and Addlestone Junction.
 

zwk500

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You are right there. I think that Heathrow Southern Railway proposals for a tunnel to Virginia Water would solve most of that problem for the link to Woking. A flyover at Woking would be needed for trains to continue to Guildford.
That's a long tunnel, under some very wet or heavily developed (Or both!) ground. It would also remove any benefit of the new rail link to Staines, Windsor, Richmond/Twickenham, Barnes, Putney etc as well as massively extending Central London journey times by forcing passengers to go via Chertsey from Waterloo.
There are some very busy level crossings between Virginia Water and Addlestone Junction.
Tbf, Chertsey LX could be closed as Bell Bridge road is already the natural through route. Put in a pedestrian bridge to lessen the impact of severing of the town. Addlestone LX is harder to solve though.
 

MotCO

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The other thing to consider is whether a link from HS2 to Heathrow might be of more use. If the HS2 train has to call at Old Oak Common, the obvious (?) way would be a train reversal west out of OOC to link into the Great Western lines somewhere, given the difference in elevation. This could help reduce internal flights out of Heathrow.
 

JonathanH

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The other thing to consider is whether a link from HS2 to Heathrow might be of more use. If the HS2 train has to call at Old Oak Common, the obvious (?) way would be a train reversal west out of OOC to link into the Great Western lines somewhere, given the difference in elevation. This could help reduce internal flights out of Heathrow.
A link for reversing trains from HS2 to Heathrow doesn't serve the same markets as a direct western link. In any case, HS2 doesn't have capacity for trains to both Euston and Heathrow.

The operation of direct trains from Old Oak Common to Heathrow should be capable of serving both western markets and travellers on HS2, without the need for obscure reversals (or the western link).

In any case, the journey time from Old Oak Common to Heathrow isn't going to be much more than the time (or inconvenience) someone might spend on a people mover within an airport.
 

edwin_m

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The other thing to consider is whether a link from HS2 to Heathrow might be of more use. If the HS2 train has to call at Old Oak Common, the obvious (?) way would be a train reversal west out of OOC to link into the Great Western lines somewhere, given the difference in elevation. This could help reduce internal flights out of Heathrow.
The HS2 lines point in the wrong direction and are much deeper than the GWML, so a reversal towards Heathrow would be extremely difficult to engineer and probably impact severely on route capacity. It's already under construction so basically not going to happen.

Some of the early demand work for HS2 also predicted that only about 8% of the HS2 passengers into the London area were heading for Heathrow. Diverting 8% of the trains wouldn't provide Heathrow with a frequent HS service and passengers to/from some HS2 stations would still find it quicker to change at Old Oak anyway. And that's before anyone started to think about how to make a station for 400m trains vaguely near Heathrow.

We don't know what Heathrow Express will have morphed into by the time HS2 opens, but I think it's fairly safe to assume a train every 15min running non-stop between Old Oak and T123, then T5, then potentially continuing onto a southern link.
 

kevin_roche

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We don't know what Heathrow Express will have morphed into by the time HS2 opens, but I think it's fairly safe to assume a train every 15min running non-stop between Old Oak and T123, then T5, then potentially continuing onto a southern link.
I think it would be great if they could link through to Woking as that would provide both Heathrow and HS2 access to anyone willing to change at Woking.
 

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Why not just build a large station at Hayes to allow Intercity trains to stop and construct a NYC style people-mover between there and the airport terminals? Continuing down to Feltham too to connect with SWR. Seems to serve New York well enough instead of digging a new subway line straight into JFK.
 

Bald Rick

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Why not just build a large station at Hayes to allow Intercity trains to stop and construct a NYC style people-mover between there and the airport terminals?

Or a large station at Old Oak Common, which would allow Intercity AND HS2 trains to stop, and operate a London style people mover (let’s call it Crossrail) between there and the airport terminals?
 

JonathanH

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Well for starters my suggestion is closer to the airport than OOC and knocks off the need for a southern link to Heathrow.
It is closer by a small number of minutes - think of all the people inconvenienced by having their journey time increased by stops at Hayes & Harlington AND Old Oak Common. Far more than want to go to Heathrow.

Continuing down to Feltham too to connect with SWR.
Good luck finding a route for a people mover from Heathrow to Feltham. Feltham isn't an amazing location for connectivity either.
 
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