Windsor Link Railway reaches key milestone as WRLtH suffers further delays
The relative fortunes of two rival rail schemes appear to have reversed in recent weeks. The Western Rail Link to Heathrow is subject to an unspecified delay while there have been reports that the Windsor Link Railway could be reach a significant milestone in the near future.
Uncertainty surrounds the Western Rail Link to Heathrow project (WRLtH), according to minutes from a Slough Borough Council Scrutiny Panel published recently, while there have been reports that the Windsor Link Railway has renewed confidence that its plans will be taken up by Theresa May’s new Government.
In January, in discussing the furore surrounding the temporary closure of Hollow Hill/Market Lane at Chequers Bridge, Slough Borough Council’s Neighbourhoods and Community Services Scrutiny Panel heard that the WRLtH project was subject to unspecified delays arising from “parliamentary activity”.
HS2, the Panel was told, had also indicated that it supported keeping the road open with a realigned Chequers Bridge. SBC had previously suggested that HS2 would, as with WRLtH, require the road to close. Uncertainty surrounding WRLtH’s exact timescale had influenced the amount of detail SBC could currently provide in consideration of mitigation for any future requirement to permanently close the road and there were no discussions active with WRLtH on the issue. As a result the road closure remains an issue for WRLtH and WRLtH alone to deal with at some point in the future.
WRLtH is now well behind on the schedule it published in 2014, and looks set to slip further against a revised scheduled released with the public consultation on the its plans closed last March. There has been no sign of the second consultation promised in late 2016 or “early 2017”:
The Windsor Link Railway, on the other hand, could be about to take a major step forward in the next few weeks.
According to a report by Thames Valley Property, a network representing the property sector across the Thames Valley region, businessman and former Windsor councillor George Bathurst has been working with Network Rail on a feasibility study into the £200 million privately-funded scheme. The report should be complete within weeks and is expected to confirm that viability of the plans, which would give the project a major boost.
Although not confirmed the comments were retweeted by the Windsor Link Railway (WLR) ten days ago.
The WLR project would replace Windsor’s two stations with one, link the two lines by tunnel, and (in a later phase) create a new rail link to Heathrow.
Thames Valley Property says the change of Government has helped the WLR’s prospects:
“Prospects for what had initially seemed unlikely project, were boosted last year when, following the Brexit vote and David Cameron’s subsequent resignation, the new cabinet announced its interest in private investment for rail projects.”
The report also quotes Mr Bathurst as saying that the new Government and the new Secretary of State “have given quite a push for private investment in railways”.
While neither rail scheme would initially benefit residents in Colnbrook, later phases of the WLR could see links with Heathrow and Crossrail, with the possibility of a station in Poyle. Emphasis, for now, is on central Windsor.
A planning application is expected to be submitted later this year. If approved, the link could be completed as early as 2022.