A £375m light rail scheme to Heathrow Airport has been submitted to the Department for Transport (DfT) by a district council, LGC’s sister title New Civil Engineer reports.
Submitted by Spelthorne BC the scheme, similar in style to London’s Docklands Light Railway (DLR), is in direct competition to bids by the Windsor Link Railway and Heathrow Southern Rail.
The scheme proposes a light rail link from Staines-Upon-Thames to the airport, with a new Staines station part of the proposal.
The council claims the light rail line would put Staines on the map as a “centre for business growth and investment” and release “huge untapped potential” to Heathrow, by reducing journey times to seven minutes.
“We’re very keen to maximise the benefits coming out of the expansion of Heathrow Airport because quite a lot of our northern communities are going to be significantly impacted by Heathrow,” said Spelthorne’s group head for regeneration and growth Heather Morgan. “We’re saying, we support the expansion, but only on the basis that us sufficient economic benefits, enough to outweigh the environmental and the cost to the local community.”
Ms Morgan claims that other proposals for traditional “heavy” rail access were “unacceptable” and would take up too much space and cut a swathe through Staines Moor, which she called a “valued and legally protected” area.
The council also claims that the alternative schemes would not benefit its residents as the through services would not stop at Spelthorne station, despite 25% of people in the two nearest boroughs working at Heathrow.
Ms Morgan said the idea had come from partner Interlinking Transit Solutions which is proposing a London-wide light rail scheme, of which the Heathrow scheme would be the first stage. Although she said the council was not involved in it, there could be a potential option to extend the line around the whole of London.
The council cited examples from Vancouver in Canada, Seattle, Copenhagen, and the DLR in London as examples of where light railways had been successful.
The station for the light rail scheme would be close to the existing railway station in Staines with connecting trains every six minutes. The route would mostly run alongside the M25, using brownfield land.
Ms Morgan said: “It would be privately financed with no government money required so there’d be a fairly significant development in Staines town centre to help pay for the scheme.
“It’s part of a wider strategy, how we deliver our housing growth, how we protect our green belt and get development in the town centre.”
The Spelthorne light rail scheme will go up against the Windsor Link Railway scheme and the Heathrow Southern Rail bid.
The Windsor Link scheme is proposed to solve the southern access challenge in two phases. In the first, a short link would be built in Windsor, connecting the two terminating spurs off the Waterloo to Reading line and the Paddington to Slough line.
Phase 2 would see a longer link providing southern access to Heathrow, which would then join existing rail lines providing services to the West.
It was revealed by New Civil Engineer earlier this month that the scheme had formed a consortium with Skanska and was being submitted as part of the DfT’s market led proposals call for ideas.
WLR joins Heathrow Southern Railway Ltd. The £1.2bn Aecom-backed scheme would see a 12.5km stretch of railway running through a tunnel to connect Heathrow Airport with Chertsey.
The HSR bid is the most developed of the three schemes having spent a total of £1m on its bid.
Meanwhile, Spelthorne has purchased three new properties for a combined total of £285m as it continues its commercial investment strategy.
The council has bought the Charter Building in Uxbridge, the Porter Building in Slough, and Thames Tower in Reading. Comprising 545,000 sq.ft, the three properties are occupied by a wide range of investment grade tenants on a variety of lease terms.
The council said its strategy primarily sought to “fill the gaps left by reductions in central government and county council funding and to protect the services residents need and expect”. However it said the income generated from its investments meant the council is “now able to enhance local services and indeed are now also investing to provide homes for residents, including emergency housing, a single homeless hostel, affordable and general housing provision.”
Leader Ian Harvey (Con) said the latest property purchases meant the council is “one further step [along] in our drive to become financially self-sufficient”. He added: “Our approvals and due diligence processes are extremely robust and our approach restrained, prudent and risk-averse.
“We have comprehensive treasury management and borrowing strategies. We only purchase if an investment generates a significant and sustainable annual revenue stream to support the services we provide to residents. We use external advisors of the highest calibre to help us with all aspects of the process and have invested in a newly hired, highly skilled property team within the council to both support purchases and manage our growing property portfolio.”