The Daily Telegraph reports today:

Five bidders are in the running to build the first railway line under new government proposals aiming to fund new tracks entirely with private cash…

Bidders were invited to submit proposals in March as part of plans by ministers to inject extra cash into the railways.

Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, has been vocal about his desire for rail access to Heathrow from the south, as improved transport links bolster the argument in favour of the third runway expansion proposals.

Although proposals can still be submitted until the end of July, a source close to the Government project said new challengers are unlikely. Officials are due to meet bidders today to outline their priorities for the project…

Once the bid deadline passes in July, the Government is expected to provide an update on the next stage of the process in the autumn. Depending on the scheme chosen, trains could be running on the new line as early as 2025.

Last month the Department for Transport announced new guidance for ‘market-led proposals’, such as the Windsor Link Railway. It also announced a ‘call for ideas’ for connecting Heathrow to the south and at the same time asked the market to help in financing a western link to Heathrow, which is currently unfunded beyond next year.

Update: also featured in the Railnews.