LOCAL AUTHORITIES backing £425M of direct rail links from Heathrow airport to Reading, Guildford and London Waterloo argued this week that the construction of Terminal 5 makes the scheme a 'realistic' business proposition.
A report for the Airtrack Forum, a group of local authorities and private organisations led by Surrey County Council, has given the scheme a benefit to cost ratio of 2.7.
The report, produced by consultant Atkins Rail and PricewaterhouseCoopers, concludes the project is 'a realistic and financially viable business proposition'.
The scheme has been mooted for many years, but the high cost of tunnelling into Heathrow's central terminal area has always proved prohibitive.
Routing the new connections to T5, which is located south of the main airport complex, will significantly lower costs.
The scheme would attract 15M passengers per annum and remove 5,000 road journeys during the three-hour morning peak.
Most of the link would run on existing track, with new infrastructure needed for 5km of double track from Staines to the T5 terminal. This would run alongside the M25 between junctions 13 and 14 and the new T5 spur motorway. T5's Heathrow Express station has been designed to handle extra rail services.
Construction could begin in 2008 and the line open in 2011.
But the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has reservations about the scheme.
It is considering a number of schemes to enhance rail services to Heathrow and told NCE this week that it has concerns over the ability of existing infrastructure to handle additional services reliably.
It has commissioned AEA Technology to investigate the ability to path extra services without a grade separated junction at Woking and an additional platform at Reading.