The Western Rail Link to Heathrow

Transport Knowledge Hub logo Published on: 15th June 2018 by Tim Smith.

Network Rail has launched its formal six-week consultation process to finalise the designs of the Western Rail Link to Heathrow (WRLtH) and we are urging businesses of all sectors, sizes and location to contribute to this consultation. This is your chance to show your support and have a say in a critical investment that we and various bodies have been pressing for, for too many years now.

The Western Rail Link to Heathrow
WRLtH is a proposed new 6.5km rail link between the Great Western Main Line and London Heathrow Airport. The rail connection would speed up journeys to Britain’s busiest international airport, by allowing passengers to travel to the airport from the South Coast, South West, South Wales and West Midlands, without going into London Paddington.

The new link would leave the Great Western Main Line between Langley and Iver. It would then descend underneath the main line into a cutting before entering a 5km tunnel. The tunnel would pass under Richings Park and Colnbrook and then merge with existing rail lines underground at Heathrow Terminal 5.

What are the benefits?
The economic benefits offered by WRLtH are substantial – £800 million boost to the UK economy and 42,000 jobs created nationally; it will deliver a significant return on investment: the jobs, GVA and business cost savings generated will be far in excess than that of HS2, for a fraction of the cost.

In 2016 independent research led by the University of Cambridge into pollution levels in and around Heathrow Airport revealed that car travel is the main polluter of harmful gases above any other form of transport. WRLtH is designed to alleviate car travel and dramatically reduce rail journey times from the west; the approximate journey time from Reading to Heathrow will be 26 minutes. There would be up to one million fewer car journeys if the project goes ahead, saving 30 million road miles of harmful emissions in the first year alone. This would help ensure Heathrow meets EU air quality restrictions.

The project will also provide much needed congestion relief for the M4, M25 and M3. 55% of journeys on the proposed service will be extracted from the road, hence dramatically reducing the level of pollution emitted from car travel.

The scheme is of national significance and boasts wide support from Thames Valley, Wales, Midlands and the South West. The Department for Transport recognises it as a ‘nationally significant infrastructure project.’

WRLtH is the LEP’s infrastructure priority
In the Thames Valley, the transport and communications infrastructure on which we rely is simultaneously a local, national and international resource. It is very congested. This in turn is threatening to undermine our intrinsic growth potential. It is therefore essential to invest in it and also to encourage sustainable transport networks that offer choices; a western rail link will do just that.

Have your say
You can respond to the consultation at

The consultation will close on 22 June 2018.

About the Author

This post was written by Tim Smith. Tim Smith is Chief Executive of the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP