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DfT official says Heathrow Southern Rail proposal ‘falls short’

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An official from the Department for Transport (DfT) has said that the private sector proposal to build a southern rail link to Heathrow “falls short” of government requirements.

Speaking at a London conference DfT head of private rail investment and contestability George Chilcott said the proposal did have “good ideas” suggesting that the project has not been rejected out of hand. But he concluded that the scheme had “fallen short in understanding the private sector requirements” for private rail projects, dubbed market led proposals (MLPs) by the DfT. 

“Heathrow Southern, unfortunately was a sort of parallel project with the same good ideas and good intentions that has fallen short on some of the understanding of the private sector requirements in this sphere.” 

The DfT asked the private sector to come up with MLPs for rail schemes in March last year, after original plans for the Heathrow Southern Rail link were originally submitted.

Other schemes, such as the HS4Air scheme and the Windsor to Heathrow rail link have been rejected.

Heathrow Southern Railway chief executive Graham Cross said accused the government of dragging its heels in providing updates and guidance for MLP schemes.

“Government pace has been dreadful,” Cross said. “We still do not have any forward process to engage with.”

Earlier this week, Aecom chief executive of civil infrastructure EMEA Colin Wood told New Civil Engineer that the delay in responding to the Heathrow proposal is a clear sign that the DfT had been “distracted” by Brexit uncertaintyand that the company was having to “chase” the government for a response.

Wood told New Civil Engineer. “Instead of receiving a detailed response we have had to chase the government to make a decision.”

Despite the delays and accusations of being distracted, Chilcott maintained that the MLP scheme was a “priority” for the DfT.

“[Market Led Proposals] are a exciting priority for the department.” Chilcott said. “We have learned some of the barriers to private finance and what the market is prepared to do and is capable of.” 

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