Windsor Link Railway

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Coordinates: 51°28′37″N 0°27′22″W / 51.477°N 0.456°W / 51.477; -0.456

Windsor Link Railway
(Left arrow Reading – Paddington Right arrow)
Great Western main line
Slough (Royal Curve restored)
Chalvey Interchange (proposed)
M4 motorway
A332
Windsor Railway Bridge over River Thames
Windsor Royal Station (proposed)
New Windsor Tunnel
Black Potts Bridge over River Thames
Level crossing (removed)
Level crossing (removed)
Underpass B470 (proposed)
Datchet
Sunnymeads
Wraysbury
Poyle Interchange (Proposed)
To West Drayton via S&WDR (Proposed)
M25 motorway
Heathrow Terminal 5
Heathrow Express (or Crossrail or Piccadilly line)
Staines (curve to Ascot restored)
(Left arrow Reading – Waterloo Right arrow)
Waterloo–Reading line
(Left arrow South Western main line)
via Chertsey branch line from Virginia Water

The Windsor Link Railway was a proposed new railway in Windsor, Berkshire, connecting the Great Western and South Western franchise areas and potentially linking both to London Heathrow Airport.

George Bathurst originally proposed the scheme in 2009 as part of David Cameron's "Big Society" initiative with the aim of providing improved rail services to Windsor despite the fact that Windsor is served by two railway stations[1][better source needed] Originally the cost was £125 million at the very most which included contingency.[2][better source needed]

Proposed in 2013, the project is promoted by Windsor Link Railway Limited (WLR), led by businessman George Bathurst.[3] The promoter's aim is for the railway to be entirely privately initiated and financed. The cost was estimated as £200 million[4] for the Staines to Slough section of the railway only, excluding the proposed work on roads and buildings.

The initial focus was on a short tunnel through central Windsor itself. A proof-of-concept was supported by a major rail infrastructure company.[5]

Approval process[edit]

In June 2013, the company announced that Network Rail had given the green light to go ahead to the next phase of development and seek private investment.[6] Network Rail, however, made it clear at the time that this was a wholly misleading statement and that the company did not support or endorse the scheme. [source - various publicly available Network Rail documents][citation needed]

On 11 December 2013, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead received 1,423 signatures in support of the project.[7] This resulted in the project being discussed at full council on 25 February 2014. A unanimous motion was passed in support of the project, noting the petition, encouraging WLR to engage in the planning process and looking forward to further submissions.[8][9]

In August 2014, WLR announced that it had retained Turner & Townsend to run a competition to select an investment partner.[10] As of August 2019, no investment partner had been identified for the project

In November 2014, a working group of the local planning authority, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, recommended support of the proposals in the borough local plan, provided no substantial harm to heritage assets was verified.[11] This was confirmed by the borough's cabinet on 26 February 2015.[12]

The local council, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead passed a unanimous motion encouraging plans to come forward.[13]

Also, the local neighbourhood plan included the associated regeneration of the Windsor riverside area in its 'vision day'.[14] The Windsor Observer reported on 31 July 2015 that plans for a public consultation on the Windsor Link Railway have been delayed. This is to allow the rail link to be considered in the wider context of a "Windsor regeneration project".[15]

In 2016 BBC News reported that the company had released a 'master plan' for the Windsor Riverside area.[16]

This has been followed, in 2017, by the company also announcing that it had completed a "GRIP 2"-style feasibility report and submitted it to Network Rail.[17] In response the council has announced that it was interested in the proposals for improving the riverside area and was appointing its own consultants GL Hearn.[18]

In a post on the Thamesweb forum on 13 December 2012, Bathurst stated "no houses in Windsor or Datchet are necessary to be demolished to provide either the new tunnel in Windsor or the road underpass in Datchet"[19] which was changed later on in the planning process impacting a number of houses in Bridgewater Terrace.

There were multiple local concerns to be addressed, including improving and protecting the riverside environment, views, those raised by Cllr Colin Rayner on technical challenges and disruption during construction.[20] The local concerns include the fact that the link railway track and new station complex and roadways, with its additional commercial offices and related facilities, is planned to be constructed on National Trust land. The construction will be funded by building residential properties along much of the riverside area that overlooks ancient Eton College flood meadows.

Proposals for both phases of the project were submitted to the government on 31 July 2018.[21]

It was rejected by the government in December 2018.[22]

However, in February 2019, two months after being rejected, a letter was sent to the promoters from the Department for Transport stating they had reassessed the case for Phase 1 of the scheme (Slough-Staines via a new station at Windsor Royal) and stated this could have big benefits. This section of the project could be running in five years.[23] This letter has not been publicly shared or published to verify the claims of the promoter of the scheme.

In March 2019, an independent political party within the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead set out its policies in a document called "the BOROUGH first" where it said that it will oppose the Windsor link railway and "For many years Windsor has endured the threat of the Windsor Link Railway" which were clear statements against the project [24]

Route[edit]

Phase 1[edit]

Phase 1 of the scheme would run from Slough to Staines, via Chalvey, Windsor, Datchet, Wraysbury and Sunnymeads. A new all-in-one station in the Windsor Goswells would replace the existing two nearby stations (Riverside and Central).

Phase 2[edit]

Phase 2 of the project involves linking to Heathrow Airport. As the Heathrow Airtrack scheme has been dropped by Heathrow Airport Holdings,[25] the proponents say a much cheaper method of connecting Heathrow to the north west, west and south would be via a bridge over the M25. This would also have benefits for the proposed intermodal freight depot at Colnbrook.

Possible links[edit]

Eventually it was hoped that the improvement would include provision to Bedford via Bletchley, Aylesbury, High Wycombe from Maidenhead by reopening the link from Bourne End station. Other direct services to Heathrow would be enabled from Oxford via the Oxford to Bicester Line, developed by Chiltern Railways, and from Reading.

To the south, a new service from Basingstoke would go to Heathrow and Slough via Frimley (where there would be a re-opened chord), Camberley, Ascot and Virginia Water. This would give residents a direct connection to Heathrow. By contrast only enabling Heathrow to be accessed from London Paddington station or via the Piccadilly line would not allow for rail competition and would not keep down passenger journey times.[26]

Railnews argued this project is a step towards a orbital rail network round Greater London, when seen with other improvements like the East West Rail.[27]

Planning process[edit]

WLR announced in the presentation to the Windsor Neighbourhood Plan, on 16 September 2014, its expected planning process, as follows:[28]

  • 2015: Planning policies clarified with local authority
  • 2016: Planning permission for 'above ground' (new rail station, transport interchange, parking, restoration of riverside and any associated property development)
  • 2018: Transport & Works Act Application
  • 2020: Earliest rail works would start
  • 2022: Rail link operational

Despite the fact that 9 years have passed since the original idea was proposed no planning application has been made, and the plans have been rejected by the Government and a local meeting held in December 2018 showed significant opposition to the plans

Background[edit]

The project is promoted by the Windsor Link Railway Limited, led by businessman George Bathurst.[3] When initially proposed, one resident described the proposal as a "fantasy".[29] Some local politicians have supported the proposal: Councillor Mohammed Rasib, for Chalvey ward and leader of the opposition Conservative group, expressed strong support.[30] Fiona Mactaggart (Member of Parliament for Slough, 1997–2017) said, "Any proposal to bring better rail links is welcomed, although this plan looks a long way from being realised."[31]

"Ministers welcome the proposals for the Windsor Link Railway and look forward to further work on the business case to confirm whether the scheme is viable."[5]

Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, had called for 'new ways of working, new ways of funding improvements'.[32]

The Hansford Review, published on 31 July 2017, included the Windsor Link Railway as a case study and called for funding for 'market led schemes' and for pathfinder projects to progress.[33]

In November 2017, the scheme was featured in the Spectator.[34] Charles Moore wrote,

Windsor has always had two stations — Central and Riverside — a fact which causes multiple inconveniences. Considering that it is the most visited tourist site outside London, it is absurdly badly connected… [the] Windsor Link Railway scheme would create a single Windsor station (putting the historic buildings of the old ones to other uses). Its first phase would link the Great Western region with the South Western, going from Slough, via Windsor, into Waterloo.

The scheme was also featured in The Daily Telegraph on 7 December 2017 'More privatisation could be the best way to save the rail industry'.[35]

In December 2017, the government announced its Strategic Vision for Rail, calling for more private investment in the rail as a way of opening more lines.[36]

New Civil Engineer on 7 December 2018 reported that "The Department for Transport (DfT) told Bathurst that it did not think that the scheme’s expected fare revenue matched the capital cost of building the line".[22]

In February 2019, New Civil Engineer reported that the government had changed its position, 'that the DfT had not carried out an economic assessment'.[37] Additionally in the same article there was confirmation that the scheme proposed had been rejected, quoting "Government’s call for ideas for privately funded railways will hit the buffers because acceptance criteria keep changing, the boss of the rejected Windsor Link Railway (WLR) scheme has claimed".[37]

Also, according to the Windsor Observer, the rejected scheme had received a 'surprise boost'. The government had said the failed scheme "'creates the potential for town development by removing the rail corridor from the surface', adding that 'this could generate significant local benefit'".[23]

Alternative rail link proposals for Heathrow Airport[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Windsor Link Railway Proposals (Now rejected by DafT)". The Royal Windsor Forum.
  2. ^ "Windsor Link Railway Proposals (Now rejected by DafT)". The Royal Windsor Forum.
  3. ^ a b "VIDEO: Exclusive interview with man behind £200m rail plan".
  4. ^ "£200m transport revolution for town". Royal Borough Observer. 3 December 2009. Archived from the original on 9 December 2009. Retrieved 14 December 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Railway plan on track". Slough Observer. 23 January 2011. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  6. ^ "Windsor press cuttings". The Windsor Link Railway. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  7. ^ "RBWM council receives petition signatures". The Windsor Link Railway.
  8. ^ "Local press reports on WLR council motion". The Windsor Link Railway.
  9. ^ "02/25/2014 Council - Minutes". rbwm.gov.uk. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. 25 February 2014. Archived from the original on 27 September 2014.
  10. ^ "Turner & Townsend appointed to run competition". The Windsor Link Railway.
  11. ^ "Windsor Link Railway scheme could be included for exploration in Royal Borough Local Plan". Royal Borough Observer. 27 November 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  12. ^ "02/26/2015 Cabinet - Minutes". rbwm.gov.uk. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. 26 February 2015. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  13. ^ "Meeting of Council on Tuesday, 25th February, 2014, 7.30 pm". 25 February 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  14. ^ "Plans to enhance and improve the centre of Windsor go on display with more people urged to comment". Royal Borough Observer.
  15. ^ "Plan for public consultation over Windsor Link Railway delayed after cabinet paper pulled". Royal Borough Observer.
  16. ^ "Private railway 'master plan' revealed". 26 May 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  17. ^ "WLR submits formal feasibility report to Network Rail – The Windsor Link Railway". windsorlink.co.uk. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Planning consultants given 'blank page' to plan potential Windsor riverside development". Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  19. ^ "Windsor Link Railway Proposals (Now rejected by DafT)". The Royal Windsor Forum.
  20. ^ "The Andrew Peach show on the Windsor Link Railway 30/7/15 0700". Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  21. ^ "Consortium submits proposal for Windsor Link Railway in the UK - Global Rail News". 1 August 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  22. ^ a b Smale, Katherine. "Exclusive - Windsor to Heathrow rail scheme 'rejected outright'". New Civil Engineer.
  23. ^ a b "Windsor Link Railway plan could still be 'on track'". Royal Borough Observer.
  24. ^ "OUR POLICIES - the BOROUGH first". thebfirst.
  25. ^ "Heathrow Airtrack Waterloo rail link shelved by BAA". BBC News.
  26. ^ "Environmental Statement Volume 2 Effects at Level Crossings 2009" (PDF). heathrowairport.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  27. ^ "Windsor project could create 'M25 rail route'". Railnews. 13 September 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  28. ^ "WLR presentation for residents". The Windsor Link Railway.
  29. ^ "Sceptics dismiss grand rail idea". Slough Observer. 12 December 2009. Archived from the original on 15 December 2009. Retrieved 14 December 2009.
  30. ^ Maidenhead Advertiser on 12 December 2009
  31. ^ Slough Observer on 4 December 2009
  32. ^ "An innovative, modern, passenger focused railway network". Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  33. ^ "The Hansford Review". thehansfordreview.co.uk. Archived from the original on 22 January 2019. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  34. ^ Moore, Charles (4 November 2017). "Women used to forgive men their defects, but the quality of mercy is under strain". The Spectator. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  35. ^ Gerrard, Bradley (10 December 2017). "Calls for rail renationalisation are growing but can the private sector keep its involvement on track". Retrieved 9 September 2018 – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  36. ^ "Connecting people" (PDF). Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  37. ^ a b Smale, Katherine. "Government vision for market led rail projects slammed as 'Utopian dream'". New Civil Engineer.

External links[edit]