Transport secretary Chris Grayling has said that a Heathrow southern rail link will need “public support”, despite the fact that many existing proposals will be entirely privately funded.
Grayling said that a southern rail link to Heathrow is “extremely important” but that any scheme going forward would require public support. He was responding to a question in Parliament from Feltham and Heston MP Seema Malhorta.
“I regard southern rail access [to Heathrow] as extremely important, we are now looking at in detail what the specification of that scheme should be,” Grayling said. “It is clearly going to require some degree of public support and that is the next stage I expect to pursue in the coming months, but relatively soon.”
Grayling’s comments follow the rejection of several proposed Heathrow Airport rail link schemes that would have been entirely privately funded.
One such scheme was the Windsor Link Railway (WLR) drawn up by Arcadis and Skanska. The DfT has so far not taken forward any proposals for southern rail access for Heathrow, following the government’s call for ideas.
In response to Grayling’s comments, WLR chief executive George Bathurst said that the government should to be clearer about what it means by “support”.
“The secretary of state is right to say that new railways will require a degree of government ‘support’. No railway of any significance has ever been built otherwise and never will be,” Bathurst told New Civil Engineer.
”We should be careful, however, not to conflate government ‘support’ and government ‘funding’, as the DfT now seems to be doing. Or to make sweeping assumptions about the implications of guarantees which are critically dependent on detail.”
“What is required, however, is better engagement from the government on the financial engineering, rather than just the civil and rail engineering which is their comfort zone,” he added.
Last year, New Civil Engineer revealed that the HS4Air proposal connecting Heathrow and Gatwick to HS2 had also been thrown out by the DfT.
Heathrow Southern Rail Ltd remains in talks with the DfT about its proposals to connect Woking and Waterloo stations with the airport. While a light rail scheme from Spelthorne is also still on the table.
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