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Heathrow rail link explores private rail investment

The government has launched a future model for rail investment, with the Heathrow rail link the first project to invite local authorities and private sector companies to invest in the rail network.

Private companies have been asked to come forward with ideas to deliver the new southern rail link to Heathrow Airport. Currently passengers coming from the south have to go into London Paddington and back out to Heathrow, the new rail link will provide direct access to the airport generating significant improvements for passengers and commercial benefits for the airport.

The call for ideas was launched by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling this week, and there are already a number of interested consortia.
The Heathrow link is the first project which will use private investment, with a number of other projects on the table, ready to create a new tier of investment in rail infrastructure from the private sector.

Proposed schemes would need to make commercial sense, build on the government’s significant investment in rail infrastructure and have the needs of passengers at their heart, without the over-arching need for government support.
The investment provided by the private companies will be over and above the £47Bn the government is already planning for the next five years.

Mr Grayling said: “We are investing in the most significant modernisation of the UK rail network since Victorian times, and I want the knowledge and expertise of investors and local partners to contribute to delivering new connections, more services and better journeys for passengers.

“This has already proved effective on a number of roads schemes in the UK. By encouraging innovative ideas and new investment on our railways, we can relieve the burden on taxpayers and fare payers with projects that match our transport needs. This can also support our economic and housing aspirations to ensure everyone benefits from an enhanced rail network.

“Heathrow is a perfect example of where this can make a real difference. Such schemes will help ensure the benefits of our major international hub are even more accessible to those across the west and south of the UK, providing vital links for travellers and exporters and attracting inward investment.”

The government has also set out a new process for ensuring that taxpayer-funded rail projects are planned and scrutinised more effectively in the future.

As part of the new Rail network enhancements pipeline, new rail schemes will be decided on in a staged – develop, design, deliver – approach to allow for greater assessment of feasibility and value for money.

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