12:24PM, Friday 02 August 2019
MP Tan Dhesi (left) showing his support for the Western Rail Link to Heathrow
Business leaders voice support for airport link
A proposed railway link to connect the Great Western Railway main line to Heathrow Airport would be a boost for business and would ease the traffic on the roads, according to business leaders.
The Department for Transport has asked Network Rail to draw up plans for four-mile (6.5km) rail link between the Great Western Main Line and Heathrow Airport as part of its Railway Upgrade Plan.
The link to Heathrow would connect with the main line between Langley and Iver stations.
It would then descend underneath the main railway line into a cutting before entering a 5km (3.1-mile) tunnel.
Under current proposals, the tunnel would pass under Richings Park and Colnbrook and merge with existing rail lines under-ground at Heathrow Terminal 5.
Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce chief executive Paul Britton said the proposed rail link from the west of the UK to Heathrow would have a knock-on effect for both big and small businesses in the Thames Valley region, and further afield.
The Western Rail link to Heathrow could increase economic activity by £800m and create 42,000 jobs, according to an assessment in 2011.
Mr Britton said the gain could be even higher, as those calculations were based on Heathrow Airport having two runways and the Government has since approved a third.
“The majority of first-time investment into the UK is within an hour of Heathrow,” he said.
Foreign businesses looking to invest in another country tend to gravitate towards international hub airports. About 70 per cent of foreign investors into the UK locate within an hour’s travelling time from Heathrow Airport, he said.
With the increased connectivity of a Western Rail link to Heathrow, businesses could base themselves further away than before, spreading prosperity and job opportunities.
Mr Britton said projects like this will help the UK compete with European counterparts by encourag-ing businesses to locate near Heathrow, rather than other international hubs like Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris or Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.
As well as improving business supply chains, Mr Britton said the increased connectivity will provide a boost for industries on the peripheries, such as hotels and hospitality.
Mr Britton said the biggest concern of businesses in the Thames Valley region is a delay to the project – the 2022 finish date has been pushed to between 2025 and 2027.
He said the project may well end up depending on both public and private-sector funding and ‘there’s a strong interest for the private sector in part-funding this project’.
He said: “If you look at the figures from 2011 you can compare that, pound for pound with other infrastructure schemes, it stacks up better in terms of return on investment, that’s the stand out message for us.”
Bill Hicks, head of infrastructure at Thames Valley Berkshire Local Economic Partnership, said the Western Rail link to Heathrow, when com-pleted, will leave 20 per cent of the UK within one interchange of Heathrow.
As well as attracting new foreign investors, big infrastructure projects are also crucial to entice current investors to stick around, he said.
“Berkshire as a whole is a top five UK location for foreign direct investment,” said Mr Hicks, crediting this in part to the region’s booming tech industry.
Projects like the Western Rail link to Heathrow are ‘reassuring’ both to businesses coming to the country but also to those already here, he said.
Francis McGarry, Network Rail’s business develop-ment director for the Western region, said the project will shorten journey times from Slough to Heathrow Airport from 55 minutes to just six minutes and from Reading to the airport from 68 minutes to 26 minutes.
He said this would ease the strain on road networks, including the M4, and would benefit businesses who have to use the motorway.
“It will make the local area a better place to live and work because you won’t have the same stresses on life,” Mr McGarry added.
Consultation for the project finished in June last year.
The Western Rail link to Heathrow is currently funded only by the Department for Transport, added Mr McGarry.
When asked if the private sector could become involved, he said: “At the moment nothing is off the table.”
He said Network Rail stakeholder feedback has been overwhelmingly in favour of the plan and that the Western Rail link to Heathrow has cross-party support in Parliament.
When asked if progress on the project was on schedule, Mr McGarry said: “We’re going all guns blazing.”
5G network to come to Slough and Windsor in the autumn
O2 customers in Windsor and Slough will be able to take advantage of 5G connectivity from October.
Both towns have been included in the planned roll-out which will cover 20 locations across the country.
The telecommunications firm, which has its headquarters on the Slough Trading Estate, says the next-generation network will ‘radically improve capacity and reliability’ and allow users to access super-fast speeds at all times.
Key locations targeted for the roll-out include railway stations, key business areas and sports venues.
Mark Evans, chief executive at Telefonica UK, said: “5G is going to be a game changer for our country.
“Whether it’s for people or businesses, the power of this next-generation network is going to unlock a world of possibilities for our economy and society.
“As we switch on our network across the country, our intelligence-led roll-out prioritises the key areas in towns and cities first – the places where our customers need, and will use, 5G the most.”
An additional 30 UK towns and cities are expected to have 5G connectivity by the summer next year.
Visit www.o2.co.uk/connectivity for details.
£20,000 prize for UK's top tradesperson
The search is on for Britain’s Top Tradesperson.
Screwfix is inviting plumbers, electricians, builders and carpenters from Maidenhead to enter the competition which is now in its 10th year.
The contest aims to celebrate the outstanding work and professionalism of UK tradespeople, with a £20,000 prize handed out to the winner.
Screwfix, in Reform Road, will compile a nationwide shortlist, from which 10 finalists will be selected to appear before a panel of judges at Screwfix LIVE in Farnborough.
Caroline Welsh, director of brand and marketing at Screwfix said: “As Screwfix celebrates the 10th anniversary of Britain’s Top Tradesperson, our goal is to find someone who is the embodiment of their trade.
“The search is on to crown someone who not only champions their trade, but also acts as an ambassador to help futureproof the industry and encourage future generations.”
The deadline for entries is Sunday, August 4.
Royal Foresters nominated for design award
A pub in Ascot has been nominated for an award in recognition of its redevelopment.
The Royal Foresters, London Road, operated by Oakman Inns, is up for a prize in the hospitality, retail and leisure sector in the Architects’ Journal Retrofit 2019 awards.
The venue reopened in July last year following a redesign by Gollifer Langston Architects.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on September 11.
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