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DLR-style scheme to rival southern rail proposals to Heathrow

Bombardier Canada light rail transit

A £375M light rail scheme to Heathrow has been submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) as part of its call for ideas on third party funded projects.

Submitted by Spelthorne Council, the DLR-style scheme is in direct competition to bids by the Windsor Link Railway and Heathrow Southern Rail. 

The scheme proposes a light rail link from Staines-Upon-Thames to the airport, with a new Staines station part of the proposal.  

The council claims the light rail line would put Staines on the map as a “centre for business growth and investment” and release “huge untapped potential” to Heathrow, by reducing journey times to seven minutes. 

“We’re very keen to maximise the benefits coming out of the expansion of Heathrow Airport because quite a lot of our northern communities are going to be significantly impacted by Heathrow,” said Spelthorne Council group head for regeneration and growth Heather Morgan. “We’re saying, we support the expansion, but only on the basis that us sufficient economic benefits, enough to outweigh the environmental and the cost to the local community.”

Morgan claims that other proposals for traditional “heavy” rail access were “unacceptable” and would take up too much space and cut a swathe through Staines Moor, which it called a “valued and legally protected” area.

The council also claims that the alternative schemes would not benefit its residents as the through services would not stop at Spelthorne station, despite 25% of people in the two nearest boroughs working at Heathrow.

Morgan said the idea had come from partner Interlinking Transit Solutions which is proposing a London-wide light rail scheme, of which the Heathrow scheme would be the first stage.

Although she said the council was not involved in it, there could be a potential option to extend the line around the whole of London.

The council cited examples from Vancouver in Canada, Seattle, Copenhagen, and the DLR in London as examples of where light railways had been successful.

The station for the light rail scheme would be close to the existing railway station in Staines with connecting trains every six minutes. The route would mostly run alongside the M25, using brownfield land.

Morgan added: “It would be privately financed with no government money required so there’d be a fairly significant development in Staines town centre to help pay for the scheme.

“It’s part of a wider strategy, how we deliver our housing growth, how we protect our green belt and get development in the town centre.”

Scheme competitors

The Spelthorne light rail scheme will go up against the Windsor Link Railway scheme and the Heathrow Southern Rail bid.

The Windsor Link scheme is proposed to solve the southern access challenge in two phases. In the first, a short link would be built in Windsor, connecting the two terminating spurs off the Waterloo to Reading line and the Paddington to Slough line.

Phase 2 would see a longer link providing southern access to Heathrow, which would then join existing rail lines providing services to the West.

It was revealed by New Civil Engineer earlier this month that the scheme had formed a consortium with Skanska and was being submitted as part of the DfT’s market led proposals call for ideas.

WLR joins Heathrow Southern Railway Ltd. The £1.2bn Aecom-backed scheme would see a 12.5km stretch of railway running through a tunnel to connect Heathrow Airport with Chertsey.

The HSR bid is the most developed of the three schemes having spent a total of £1M on its bid.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Although it's probably not in this Southern link, the potential advantage of light rail is it could share the main access tunnels to the central terminals with road traffic.

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