Plans for the £900m Western Rail Link to Heathrow have been delayed due to the downturn in the aviation industry caused by Covid-19
Network Rail announced that the estimated contract award date for Heathrow’s Western Rail Link is now 2022.
A planning application was due to be lodged in 2019 following market engagement for the project which began in 2018. However, this will not happen until 2021 at the earliest.
Procurement for three major packages, had been due to get underway earlier this summer, but again have been postponed. Plans included the construction of a £550m twin bored 5km tunnel connecting to Heathrow Terminal 5’s existing rail tunnels, as well as construction of a tunnel at Langley Junction near Slough connecting to the existing Great Western Main Line.
A Network Rail spokesman said: “The current Covid-19 situation has adversely impacted the UK economy in general and the airline industry in particular.
“As a result, the intended procurement commencement for this project has been delayed by over two years until around Summer 2022.
“With that in mind and building on the success of the supplier engagement workshop held last year, we are taking the opportunity to review whether our strategy is still appropriate in view of current market conditions.”
Following on from unlawful expansion plans
The delay also follows on from the ruling of unlawful extension plans in February due to the Heathrow expansion not considering climate change targets included in the Paris Agreement. The Department for Transport declined to appeal the ruling.
The spokesperson from Network Rail added: “It has been delayed by the Court of Appeal’s ruling on the [Heathrow Airport expansion] and the significant impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry”.
“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 a 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.”