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.

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