Development consent due to be submitted by this summer

Plans for a new rail line connecting Heathrow airport with the Great Western main line are being held up over how much the government is prepared to stump up.

Initially intended to be entirely privately funded, the project is now waiting for confirmation of public funding before it can proceed.

Asked in a written question on Monday by Labour MP Chris Elmore if the government would help fund the project, Shapps said: “It is helpful that Heathrow Airport has been clear in its Initial Business Plan that it sees the Western Rail Link being delivered in all scenarios. Government has always been clear that its support for the development of the scheme is subject to the successful agreement of terms with the Heathrow Aviation industry.”

The link (pictured below) would allow passengers from the Thames valley to travel directly to Heathrow without having to change at Paddington station in central London.

Branching off from the existing line between Langley and Iver, the 6.5km new line would reach Heathrow’s terminal 5 via a 5km tunnel and cut journey times to the airport to 26 minutes from Reading and to around seven minutes from Slough.

First proposed in 2012, the line was held up by political instability last year following a public consultation in 2018.

When asked by Elmore what the timescale is for the project, Shapps said that a development consent order is being “finalised” and is due to be submitted to the department for transport “following the agreement of terms between the government and the Heathrow Aviation industry on an appropriate financial contribution to the project”.

Shapps added: “Network Rail has been advised to expect to submit the application for Development Consent no later than summer 2020, which will mark the next major milestone for the project.”

A development consent order is the second stage in the government’s planning process for major infrastructure projects, preceded by the public consultation phase and followed by an examination period of up to six months by the department of transport’s planning inspectorate.

Shapps will then make the final call with construction free to begin following a six-week period in which the decision can be challenged in the high court.