Western Rail Link to Heathrow

Important information

This page was last updated in December 2020. It will be updated when a satisfactory business case and funding agreement, including an appropriate contribution from the Heathrow aviation industry, is confirmed and progress is resumed towards submitting a Development Consent Order application.

A proposed new direct rail link from the West to Heathrow would improve journeys to Britain’s busiest airport, providing environmental benefits and supporting economic growth for the Thames Valley, South West and South Wales.

As part of our Railway Upgrade Plan the Department for Transport asked us in 2012 to develop plans to build a new 6.5km rail link between the Great Western Main Line and London Heathrow Airport. The proposed rail connection would speed up journeys to Britain’s busiest international airport, by allowing passengers to travel to the airport from the South Coast, South West, South Wales and West Midlands without going into London Paddington.

The Western Rail Link to Heathrow (WRLTH) would leave the Main Line between Langley and Iver.

It would then descend underneath the main railway line into a cutting before entering a 5km tunnel. The tunnel would pass under Richings Park and Colnbrook and then merge with existing rail lines underground at Heathrow Terminal 5.

WRLtH is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and planning permission can only be granted through a Development Consent Order (DCO) with a final decision by the Secretary of State for Transport.

Map of proposed rail link, download map (PDF, 197 KB)
Click to view full PDF of the new consultation map

December 2020 update

The proposals for this scheme are well advanced and reflect the extensive feedback we have received from passengers, communities, businesses and stakeholders. 

However, the scheme is subject to a satisfactory business case and agreement of acceptable terms with the Heathrow aviation industry, so can only progress to DCO submission when funding has been agreed, including an appropriate financial contribution from Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL); this requires endorsement by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as the relevant regulator.

The government has been working closely with HAL, but the Coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the aviation and rail industries. This in turn has affected Heathrow Airport’s ability to commit to a financial contribution to the scheme at this time. The government will continue to work closely with HAL to agree funding arrangements that offer value for money for the taxpayer and for the users of the airport. The DfT has therefore asked Network Rail to change the planned submission of the DCO application from winter 2021 to a potential winter 2022 submission; this remains subject to a satisfactory business case and funding agreement.

What are the benefits?

The proposed rail link would:

  • Reduce rail journey times between Reading and Heathrow by delivering a new, faster, frequent, more reliable direct train service to Heathrow with four trains per hour in each direction. All trains would call at Reading and Slough and alternate trains at Twyford and Maidenhead. Journey times could be as short as 26 minutes from Reading and 6 to 7 minutes from Slough.
  • Significantly improve rail connectivity to Heathrow from the Thames Valley, South Coast, South West, South Wales and West Midlands.
  • Provide an alternative form of transport for passengers and the large number of people who work at the airport who are currently travelling by road.
  • Ease congestion on some of the UK’s busiest roads, the M4, M3 and M25 resulting in lower CO2 emissions equivalent to approximately 30 million road miles per year, helping to deliver the UK’s climate change and carbon reduction targets.
  • Generate economic growth and new jobs across the Thames Valley and surrounding areas.
  • Reduce passenger congestion at London Paddington.

Public consultation and next steps

We listened carefully to your feedback during our informal consultations in 2015 and 2016 before drawing up more detailed designs.

From 11 May – 22 June 2018 we undertook a round of statutory public consultation, including 18 community events in and around the local area to enable local people to find out more about our detailed proposals, ask questions and express their views. We are grateful to everyone that took the time to take part in this consultation.

Consultation update December 2018 (PDF)

A further round of statutory consultation would be required prior to a future DCO application being submitted.

Contact us

If you have any questions about the plans, you can send us an email at: westernraillinktoheathrow@networkrail.co.uk or contact our 24-hr national helpline on 03457 11 41 41.