04:26PM, Wednesday 23 September 2020
Western Link Map
The Government has been accused of using COVID-19 as an excuse to delay the delivery of the Western Rail Link to Heathrow.
Network Rail’s plans for the 6.5km rail link, connecting the Great Western Main Line and Heathrow Airport, were expected to be submitted to the Department for Transport this year.
But the DfT this week confirmed an application for a Development Consent Order for the project is now due to be made in winter 2021/22.
MP for Slough Tan Dhesi described the latest delay as ‘exasperating’.
He said: “As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Western Rail Link to Heathrow I am extremely disappointed and exasperated by yet another delay to this transformational scheme.
“The Government committed to it in 2012 and yet despite eight years elapsing and there being a shovel-ready scheme with near cross-party consensus we still don’t even have a shovel in the ground.”
The shadow railways minister added: “It seems to me that COVID-19 is being used as an excuse to further delay progress despite all the consultations that have been undertaken and the pledges of support from Heathrow and the business community.”
Journey times from Slough to Heathrow are expected to be shortened to six minutes if the scheme is given the go-ahead by the Government.
Mr Dhesi said this could enhance Slough’s reputation as a business hub and described the project as the top infrastructure priority in the Thames Valley.
Slough Borough Council has already started preparing for its construction.
Plans are in place for a multi-million pound upheaval of Langley’s road network in order to cope with traffic which will be generated when Hollow Hill Lane closes to make way for the WRLtH.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said discussions with the Heathrow aviation industry over the funding of the project have been held up by the stalled bid for a third runway and the impact of COVID-19.
A statement said: “The Department has been clear that whilst it fully supports the development of a Western Rail Link to Heathrow, this is subject to a satisfactory business case and the agreement of acceptable terms with the Heathrow aviation industry.
“In light of this, the DCO submission for Western Rail Link to Heathrow is now no longer expected to be made in 2020 but is anticipated to be submitted during Winter 2021/2022. “During this time, the scheme’s environmental analysis will be updated to ensure it complies with new environmental regulations.”
Slough Borough Council has been contacted for comment.
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