Private companies have been asked to come forward with ideas to deliver a new southern rail link to Heathrow Airport.
The link will be one of the first projects under government plans to invite third parties – such as local authorities and private sector companies - to invest in the rail network, over and above the £47 billion the government is already planning for the next 5 years.
A call for ideas on market-led proposals to enhance the nation’s railways was launched today (20 March 2018) by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. There are already a number of consortia looking to construct the southern link to Heathrow.
Access to the UK’s busiest airport is just one example of ambitious proposals that would generate significant improvements for passengers across the entire network, creating a new tier of investment in rail infrastructure from the private sector.
Proposed schemes would need to make commercial sense, build on the government’s significant investment in rail infrastructure and have the needs of passengers at their heart, without the over-arching need for government support.
Mr Grayling said:
We are investing in the most significant modernisation of the UK rail network since Victorian times, and I want the knowledge and expertise of investors and local partners to contribute to delivering new connections, more services and better journeys for passengers.
This has already proved effective on a number of roads schemes in the UK. By encouraging innovative ideas and new investment on our railways, we can relieve the burden on taxpayers and fare payers with projects that match our transport needs. This can also support our economic and housing aspirations to ensure everyone benefits from an enhanced rail network.
Heathrow is a perfect example of where this can make a real difference. Such schemes will help ensure the benefits of our major international hub are even more accessible to those across the west and south of the UK, providing vital links for travellers and exporters and attracting inward investment.
Video about rail to Heathrow
Today, the government also set out a new process for ensuring that taxpayer-funded rail projects are planned and scrutinised more effectively in the future.
As part of the new Rail network enhancements pipeline, new rail schemes will be decided on in a staged – develop, design, deliver – approach to allow for greater assessment of feasibility and value for money.
The department is also continuing to work on developing plans for a western rail access to Heathrow.