The Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR) has today confirmed that the Windsor Link Railway proposal should be considered in developing a potential solution to satisfy the recently announced requirement for a connection from Heathrow to the west.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Transport said in her High Level Output Statement (HLOS)

… to develop plans to build a new rail link from the Great Western Main Line to London Heathrow Airport to enhance rail access from the Thames Valley and the West and, subject to a satisfactory business case and the agreement of acceptable terms with the aviation industry, to commence construction of this during CP5.

The Department for Transport has also today confirmed to WLR (WLR’s emphasis):

HLOS is cast as a challenge to the industry and others to develop the most cost effective solution to a range of outcome challenges. Her [the Secretary of State’s] wider aspiration is to improve rail connectivity to airports and ports, therefore seeks a response from the rail and aviation industry and other scheme promoters. It is for the Industry, overseen by the Office of Rail Regulation, to ensure that good schemes with strong business cases and which deliver the High level objectives set by the Secretary of State now find a place in the Industry’s Delivery Plan for CP5 or made ready for inclusion in a subsequent Control period.

This is great news for taxpayers (and for people living to the south of Heathrow) as it confirms that the scheme that goes ahead must demonstrate the best value for money, otherwise Network Rail would not get sign-off from the ORR to spend any of the £500 million allocated. The Windsor Link Railway Ltd believes its scheme has a return on investment about five times that of competing routes so at this stage seems the most likely to get approval.