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The Western Rail Approach to Heathrow is a proposed rail link in Berkshire, England, which would create an additional connection between London's Heathrow Airport and the Great Western Main Line. Beginning at Heathrow Terminal 5 station, the link would run via a tunnel to a junction east of Langley station, allowing trains to run westwards towards Reading and Slough. When completed, the link would improve rail connections to Heathrow from the Thames Valley as well as from South-West England and South Wales. It would also reduce congestion at London Paddington station by removing the need for Heathrow passengers on this route to travel into central London.[1]

Western Rail Approach to Heathrow
map showing route of proposed link to Heathrow
Map of the proposed rail link
TypeCommuter rail Airport rail link
SystemGreat Western Main Line/
Elizabeth Line/Heathrow Express
LocaleHeathrow Airport, West London
Heathrow Terminal 5
WebsiteOfficial website
OwnerNetwork Rail
CharacterRailway spur in tunnel


The project was announced by the Department of Transport in July 2012.[2] Theresa Villiers, the rail minister at the time, included the project in the High Level Output Statement published in 2012. This stated 'The Government wishes to see a new railway link to give western rail access to Heathrow Airport' but did not commit to the scheme, making it 'subject to a satisfactory business case and the agreement of acceptable terms with the Heathrow aviation industry'.[3]

Network Rail originally estimated that the project could be operational by 2020.[2] In January 2017, Network Rail's estimate was 2024.[1][4] Slough Borough Council has cited 'parliamentary activity' as the reason for the delay but not offered further explanation.[5]

The scheme has been supported by the Airports Commission, which included the scheme in its 2014 report on the Expansion of Heathrow Airport.[6]

In May 2018, it was reported that Network Rail intended to apply for a Development Consent Order in 2019, and that construction of the railway link would be privately financed.[7]


The currently proposed route is a new 5.5 kilometres (3.4 miles) railway line that would leave the Great Western Main Line between Langley and Iver before entering a new tunnel. The tunnel (composed of two smaller tunnels) would pass under Richings Park and Colnbrook and then join existing rail lines at Heathrow Terminal 5.[8]

Four access buildings will be built along the route to provide emergency access to the tunnels, with two additionally providing ventilation.[8]

Realignment of the existing tracks will also be required between Langley and Iver.[8]

The route could potentially mean closure of Mansion / Hollow Hill Lane. The effects of this closure are being investigated by the Slough Council.[9]

The Western Rail Approach is, according to the Aircraft Expansion Consultation, designed to be "independent yet compatible" with the Heathrow expansion.[10]


It is envisaged that there would be a service of four trains an hour from Heathrow to Slough and Reading.[8] Earlier publicity also suggested there would be two trains per hour to Twyford and Maidenhead.[11]

Heathrow Express have offered to run services to Reading which would stop only at Slough.[12]

Alternative & complementary schemesEdit

Other schemes have been proposed to connect Heathrow Airport to the Great Western Main Line. A western link featured in the Heathrow Airtrack scheme, abandoned in 2011.[13]

Another alternative scheme is the Windsor Link Railway, which would provide both western and southern access to Heathrow.

A complementary scheme which could be developed at a later date, or alongside the Western Rail Approach, is the Heathrow Southern Railway, which envisages links from the airport to the south and south west.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "£500m Heathrow link to cut times on Great Western line". BBC News. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  2. ^ "2012 HLOS" (PDF). HM Government. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Improving Rail links to Heathrow". Network Rail. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 29 January 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link) – via Internet Archive (original page has been moved and revised)
  4. ^ "Windsor Link Railway reaches key milestone as WRLtH suffers further delays". Colnbrook Views. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  5. ^ "A New Approach - Heathrow's options for connecting the UK to growth: Surface access" (PDF). Airports Commission. January 2014. p. 36. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 October 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  6. ^ Morby, Aaron (8 May 2018). "Network Rail unveils Heathrow western rail link plan". Construction Enquirer. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d "Consultation: Improving rail links to Heathrow airport". Network Rail. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Traffic Modelling Summary March 2016" (PDF). Traffic-Modelling-Summary-March-2016.
  9. ^ "Preferred Masterplan" (PDF).
  10. ^ "What WRLtH delivers for Maidenhead". Thames Valley Berkshire LEP. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  11. ^ "Ambition for Heathrow-Reading Express service unveiled". Heathrow Express. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  12. ^ "Heathrow rail link shelved by BAA". BBC News. 11 April 2011. Archived from the original on 30 October 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2017.

External linksEdit