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Heathrow western access rail link ‘set to be mothballed’

PLANS to build a new west-facing connection from the Great Western Main Line into Heathrow Airport have been put back, according to Network Rail chief Andrew Haines.

The change is part of a review of the railway enhancements programme, after its £10.4 billion budget was cut by £1 billion in December. The longer-term implications for railways in general after the pandemic are also unclear.

Now a new ‘Rail Enhancements Pipeline’ is expected within the next few days, after months of discussions between Mr Haines and the Department for Transport to decide how economies can be made, although he has also pointed out that some money can be saved by modifying existing plans and using new technology.

A second scheme expected to be put on hold is upgrading the Brighton Main Line.

One factor in the case of the Heathrow western access is that it had depended in part on funding from the airport, which has been facing its own cash crisis after reductions in air travel.

Mr Haines said: ‘Some schemes will inevitably be changed or delayed due to the impact Covid has had on them. Likewise work on schemes such as the Brighton Main Line will be pushed back as the benefits from it won’t be felt for a long period.’

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