The Anonymous Widower

Network Rail Plans Another Tunnel Into Heathrow

We may not build the tunnel boring machines any more, but we certainly know how to dig holes better than most, as Crossrail is showing.

We also seem blessed with a geology that in many places, has the consistency of Emmental cheese.

So it is not a surprise that a news item in Modern Railways has reported that Network Rail are planning on creating the access into Heathrow from the West using a 5 km tunnel from between Iver and Langley to the airport.

This Google Earth map shows the area.

Langley To Heathrow

Langley To Heathrow

The blue line is the Piccadilly Line at the airport  and the red arrow indicates Langley station. Iver station is towards London just before the M25. I would assume that the new tunnel will vaguely follow the M25 and link up to the airport at Terminal 5. It would probably be dug from Langley with a lot of the route directly under the motorway, so the work would not affect any sensitive sites.

I doubt it’s a plan, that will stir up much opposition, except in the area, where it leaves the Great Western Main Line. This Google Earth image shows the area in detail.

Langley And Iver

Langley And Iver

A quick look at this image, would appear to show that it’s mainly farmland with no housing, for quite a bit of the way between Langley and Iver stations.

Another plus point of this plan, is that the Class 345 trains being developed for Crossrail could probably be used on the new line to connect it to Reading and/or Oxford, if the Heathrow station was built to Crossrail dimensions and standards.

It is in some ways a pity, that Crossrail wasn’t designed to go to Terminal 5 at the airport and then on to Reading in the first place. But then some of the design of the western end of Crossrail had more to do with making sure that British Airways and Heathrow Airport didn’t get upset. It doesn’t matter if they do, as they are secondary to all the passengers  and staff who use the airport. After all if the passengers aren’t happy with Heathrow, after Crossrail/Thameslink opens, they can easily get to Gatwick and Luton.

I think that this is a very sound plan and if it could be routed to serve all terminals at Heathrow by perhaps going back-to-back with the current Crossrail line being built to the airport, we’d get a much better service to London’s main airport.

So if we end up with effectively a new Crossrail loop line, that leaves the Great Western at Airport Junction, goes round all the Heathrow terminals and then after Terminal 5 connects to the Great Western between Langley and Iver, what are the consequences.

1. The plan rectifies the big fault of Crossrail not serving Terminal 5.

2. It gives passengers what they want. Going to any terminal at Heathrow from either the West or London, you just get on a Crossrail train that is using the Heathrow loop line and get off at Terminal 1/2/3, Terminal 4 or Terminal 5. Some journeys to Heathrow now sometimes need a change of train at the airport.

3. Crossrail will be used to transfer between terminals.

4. A plan like this, is the last nail in the coffin of Heathrow Express, which will probably be on permanent life support after Crossrail opens anyway. Another nail will be driven, when Old Oak Common station opens as a major transport interchange.

5. When Heathrow Express is dropped, Network Rail will be pleased, as it will free up two platforms at Paddington, for long distance services to Wales and the West Country.

6. There will also be new platform space at Heathrow Terminal 4 and 5, as if all Crossrail trains to Heathrow are going straight through, there will be no need for terminal platforms under the airport. These platforms could be used for the new Crossrail loop line.

7. All rail traffic to and from the Airport will be controlled by Transport for London. This can only be a good thing for reasons that are too numerous to list.

8. British Airways will be livid at the loss of Heathrow Express and the handing of all rail transport to TfL. So be it! There are lots of other airlines!

9. Heathrow Airport may or may not be expanded. But surely a rail line passing under most of the airport would be much easier to fit into new terminals.

10. If you are going to Heathrow 123 today from Tottenham Court Road station, it takes 55 minutes by tube all the way. The Crossrail journey should take 30 minutes and it will be fully accessible. I doubt that Transport for London would close the Piccadilly Line to Heathrow, but I can see it becoming a very quiet way of getting to and from Heathrow.

So I think it is true to say that creating a direct tunnelled link into Heathrow from the West should please everybody, except those who feel that the dinosaur that is Heathrow Express should be preserved.



February 6, 2015 - Posted by | Transport | , ,


  1. […] the future it will be getting Crossrail,the new western link to Heathrow and probably more offices around the station. Network Rail, who now manage the station, have […]

    Pingback by Birmingham Gets A Big Snow Job « The Anonymous Widower | February 8, 2015 | Reply

  2. […] In Network Rail Plans Another Tunnel Into Heathrow, I talked about plans to create a Western Rail Link Approach to Heathrow. […]

    Pingback by Crossrail’s Park-And-Ride Facilities « The Anonymous Widower | November 3, 2016 | Reply

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