Posted 13th September 2017 | 4 Comments

Windsor project could create ‘M25 rail route’

PLANS have been published for a new railway connecting the Great Western Main Line with Heathrow Airport and London Waterloo via Windsor, which could be a link creating a future ‘M25 rail route’ encircling Greater London.

Most of the rest of such a route either exists or is already being built, such as East West Rail between Oxford and Bedford.

The Windsor project includes a new railway in tunnel connecting the two existing stations at Windsor, with Riverside being replaced by a new central station and transport interchange. The result would also be an improvement to the urban environment in Windsor, according to its promoters.

A new railway would be built connecting the present Windsor Riverside line with Heathrow Terminal 5, and several possible routes have been identified for this.

The cost is being put at £375 million, to be funded by the private sector. Investors would also bear the risk of any cost overruns.

Promoters of the Windsor Link Railway have published a strategic case, and a formal feasibility study – a ‘GRIP 2’ report – has now been submitted to Network Rail.

The scheme was included in the recent Hansford Review, which was commissioned by Network Rail and recommends more private investment in the rail industry.

The Windsor Link report was prepared by engineering consultants Pell Frischmann in collaboration with Network Rail, with support from Skanska Infrastructure Development.

The conclusion is that the scheme is ‘eminently feasible’, and that viable options exist for the route, but that further investigations are now necessary before the design process can progress to GRIP3, the stage known as ‘option selection’.

The report says: “While there are areas of complexity within the scheme, they are all capable of being solved by more than one solution, each of which are long-standing and recognised construction practices. This means that the risk of the scheme from an engineering design and construction perspective is low. The scheme is therefore eminently feasible.”

The man behind the scheme is George Bathurst. He said: “I am pleased to have reached this important milestone. The next stage for us will be ‘option selection’. This chooses the best alignment of the tunnel through Windsor and the location of the new station.”

The report comes on the heels of a separate proposal for another privately funded scheme called Heathrow Southern Railway, which like the Windsor Link would use the two vacant platforms at Terminal 5 station.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Anonymous, London

    To me this looks like a solution looking for a problem. What does it achieve that is not already possible by other routes aside from the southern link to Heathrow? And what of the issue of third rail electrification from the south meeting presumably overhead from the main line? Where do the trains go? There is only a diesel shuttle from Slough at the moment so where are the paths on the main line for the trains going to and from the new link to Windsor?

  • James Dawkins, Sheffield / Hampshire

    This would be great for me personally but also like David says good for anyone living west of London. Having no direct line to Heathrow from anywhere other than central London has always seemed like folly. At least Crossrail will improve connectivity quite a bit when it takes over from Heathrow Connect.

    Is there a reason why a (presumably much cheaper) short western chord has never been built from the GWML onto the Heathrow line, to allow trains from Reading and beyond to serve the airport?

    The only question I have about the new scheme would be that since the link is being funded by the private sector, would it only be served by an open access operator like the grossly overpriced Heathrow Express? The greatest benefit to the greatest number of passengers would surely come from Heathrow having a through station on the NR network served (at the very least) by GWR and SWR.

  • David Cook, Broadstone, Dorset

    Any rail link from the SW direct into Heathrow and on to the GW Main Line is brilliant news for people living on the SW lines, it seems a logical well thought out route, I'm all for getting diggers in tomorrow, it cannot come quickly enough.

  • James Miller, Hackney

    I have been following this project for some time and I think it is basically sound.

    For those that worry about creation of the central tunnel, I feel that its creation will be no more difficult than building of the Dalston West Curve, that allows East London Line trains to reach Highbury and Islington.

    I also feel that with the advance of energy storage technology, that it would be possible to build this short tunnel without electrification.

    As no trains would terminate at Windsor and all trains would be ten-car units, modern design would probably allow a simple station design with perhaps a long single island platform with minimal surface buildings, perhaps set in extended gardens.