Windsor Link Railway
|Windsor Link Railway|
Proposed in 2013, the project is promoted by Windsor Link Railway Limited (WLR), led by businessman George Bathurst. The promoter's aim is for the railway to be entirely privately initiated and financed. The cost is estimated as £200 million for the Staines to Slough section of the railway only, excluding the proposed work on roads and buildings.
The initial focus is on a short tunnel through central Windsor itself. A proof-of-concept was supported by a major rail infrastructure company.
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.
On 11 December 2013, the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead received 1,423 signatures in support of the project. 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.
In November 2014, a working group of the local planning authority, the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, recommended support of the proposals in the borough local plan, provided no substantial harm to heritage assets was verified. This was confirmed by the borough's cabinet on 26 February 2015.
Also, the local neighbourhood plan included the associated regeneration of the Windsor riverside area in its 'vision day'. 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".
In 2016, the BBC reported that the company had released a 'master plan' for the Windsor Riverside area.
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. 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.
There are multiple local concerns to be addressed, including improving and protecting the riverside environment and views and those raised by Cllr Colin Rayner on technical challenges and disruption during construction.. 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. Concerns have been raised that the loss of two independent railway stations and related passenger services would constitute a major reduction in accessibility for the town's many visitors.
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 of the project involves linking to Heathrow. As the Heathrow Airtrack scheme has been dropped by BAA, 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, Berkshire.
Eventually it is 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 Rail, 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.
WLR announced in the presentation to the Windsor Neighbourhood Plan, on 16 September 2014, its expected planning process, as follows:
- 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
The project is promoted by the Windsor Link Railway Limited, led by businessman George Bathurst. When initially proposed, one resident described the proposal as a "fantasy". Some local politicians have supported the proposal: Councillor Mohammed Rasib, for Chalvey ward and leader of the opposition Conservative group, expressed strong support. 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."
Mrs Theresa Villiers, Transport Minister when the scheme was introduced, said, "The Government is keen to explore innovative ways of funding proposals for new train services and rail infrastructure which meet transport needs and deliver value for money.
"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."
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.
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 has also been featured in the Daily Telegraph on December 7 2017 'More privatisation could be the best way to save the rail industry' 
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. 
- "VIDEO: Exclusive interview with man behind £200m rail plan".
- "Windsor press cuttings". The Windsor Link Railway.
- "RBWM council receives petition signatures". The Windsor Link Railway.
- "Local press reports on WLR council motion". The Windsor Link Railway.
- "Turner & Townsend appointed to run competition". The Windsor Link Railway.
- "Windsor Link Railway scheme could be included for exploration in Royal Borough Local Plan". Royal Borough Observer.
- "Plans to enhance and improve the centre of Windsor go on display with more people urged to comment". Royal Borough Observer.
- "Plan for public consultation over Windsor Link Railway delayed after cabinet paper pulled". Royal Borough Observer.
- "Heathrow Airtrack Waterloo rail link shelved by BAA". BBC News.
- "Windsor project could create 'M25 rail route'". RailNews. 13 September 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
- "WLR presentation for residents". The Windsor Link Railway.
- Maidenhead Advertiser on 12 December 2009
- Slough Observer on 4 December 2009