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Heathrow rail bidder tables 'two-for-one' proposal

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A Heathrow rail bidder has tabled a half-price, “two-for-one” proposal combining works from west and south of the airport.

Windsor Link Railway (WLR) has put forward a proposal to roll the WRLtH and SRLtH schemes into one, dramatically reducing the cost of the works estimated at £2.3bn by Network Rail. 

WLR managing director George Bathurst told New Civil Engineer how its proposal to link up sections of existing track could cut the combined price tag of both projects in half.

“We’ll be bidding to provide a two-for-one solution,” said Bathurst. “It’s really helpful for us that the government is now focussing on output rather than particular technical solutions, that they’re considering western and southern access at the same time because previously those schemes have always been looked at sequentially.”

Bathurst said WLR’s proposals would cost under £1.5bn, and would be funded through passenger use and property developments in Windsor built during Phase 1.

“We’re proposing a railway of zero cost to the government for southern and western access that’s then off the government balance sheet as well,” said Bathurst.

Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) is relying on the two rail schemes to help meet its target of a 50% public transport journey share by 2030, a requirement for expansion.

Windsor link railway

Windsor link railway

Source: Windsor Link Railway

The government is keen for more rail projects to be delivered by the private sector. In March the Department for Transport (DfT) fired the starting gun on bids to build the Southern Rail Link to Heathrow (SRLtH), the UK’s first line to be built using only private cash. 

Likewise, Network Rail published its proposals for the Western Rail Link to Heathrow (WRLtH), and invited firms to bid for part of the scheme.

During Phase 1 of WLR’s proposal, short sections of new track and a tunnel would be built to connect Slough and Windsor to London Waterloo by linking up to the existing rail network.

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

A feasibility report for WLR’s plans, developed by consulting engineers Pell Frischmann, was delivered to rail ministers last year.

WLR joins Heathrow Southern Railway Ltd in bidding for the SRLtH. The £1.2bn Aecom-backed scheme, chaired by HS2 non-executive director Baroness Valentine, would see a 12.5km stretch of railway running through a tunnel to connect Heathrow Airport with Chertsey.

Hong Kong-based MTR has also expressed interest in joining the bid.

A light rail solution for the SRLtH is being put forward by Interlinking Transport Solutions, as part of a plan to create a high-frequency shuttle between Staines and Heathrow.

A fifth bidder has not been identified, according to the Daily Telegraph.

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