Benefits by region
Three new park-n-ride stations (on the M25, M3 and M4) will serve customers who prefer to start their journeys by car or bus, relieving traffic congestion on roads closer to the airport.
Overall, WLR is estimated to create 4 million new rail journeys, significantly reducing congestion on the motorways too.
East Berkshire suffers from some of the worst air quality in the country and is in breach of EU limits. Providing faster journeys by train around the region will address this through modal shift (reducing congestion on the roads) and offset some of the increase caused by an expanded Heathrow.
Overall, phase 1 of WLR is estimated to save 95,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere per year.
WLR’s proposals include a number of sites that would be enabled for significant numbers of more homes in sustainable locations in Slough and Windsor
WLR will create an estimated 3,000 new jobs in and around Windsor, focussed on town centre, sustainable locations.
Windsor is the most visited tourist destination in England outside of London as well as a working palace. The Royal Borough receives 7 million visitors per year but over 90% come by road in some years. By providing easier journeys both from London to Windsor and from Windsor to the west, more tourists will be encouraged to visit cities in the west, such as Exeter, Plymouth and Cardiff, distributing the benefits of tourism more widely, without adding to road congestion.
Faster journeys from the M3 to the M4 corridor
WLR will ease connections between the M3 and M4 economic corridors, providing a new strategic link in the country’s rail network, and make it easier to get around the region.
Woking in Surrey to Slough in Berkshire, for example, is a difficult journey today at peak hours, following the most congested section of the M25. Despite being less than 20 miles, it can often take over an hour by car. The train is worse, taking at least 75 minutes and 3 changes, involving Reading and Basingstoke or central London. With WLR phase 2 this journey could be direct and much quicker than by car.
The following picture is a Google Maps result for Slough to Windsor by train.
WLR will ease connections between south-west London and M4 economic corridor, providing a new strategic link in the country’s rail network
For example, travelling between two Royal Boroughs, Maidenhead to Richmond-upon-Thames, is a difficult journey today at peak hours, following as it does some of the most congested roads and motorways in the country. Despite being less than 20 miles, it can often take over an hour by car. The train is worse, taking at least 75 minutes and 3 changes. With WLR phase 2 this journey could be direct and much quicker than by car.
The following picture is a Google Maps result for Maidenhead to Richmond by train.
WLR will ease connections between the M3 and M4 economic corridors, providing a new strategic link in the country’s rail network This won’t just help local people but to everybody who needs to make an orbital journey around London.
For example, Slough to Brighton takes over 2 hours by train today and requires going via either central London or Reading, neither of which is on the way and both of which are often very congested. With WLR, travellers from the south of England will have an additional, more direct option to the Midlands and the North.
The following picture is a Google Maps result for Slough to Brighton by train
Windsor Riverside Master Plan
This video shows the new connected railway lines in Windsor joined by a tunnel with a new single station.
It also illustrates the improvement of the Windsor riverside that is catalysed by the infrastructure, including a park extended by 33% and reconnected with the river, better views of the castle, 1,600 new car parking spaces, many hundred new homes for local people and more communal facilities such as a cinema – all whilst reducing traffic congestion and CO2
Phase 1 of the Windsor Link Railway will connect Slough to Waterloo via Windsor, with the diagram above illustrating a service with four trains per hour.
FAQ – Outcomes
No, Windsor currently has the worst train services of any neighbouring town, measured by frequency, number of seats and destinations served. This is despite being an ancient town with little parking in the centre and despite receiving almost seven million visitors per year.
When the Elizabeth Line opens, the disparity with nearby towns Slough and Maidenhead will be even greater. Also some proposals for Heathrow southern access will reduce Windsor Riverside services further to the benefit of other destinations.
No, WLR is a scheme to enhance Windsor, not only by solving its access and transport problems but also to address the somewhat dilapidated areas around the riverside. We think we can do better than having parking and roads everywhere. We hope to be able to restore Alexandra Gardens to its original glory, as shown in this postcard from 1902, enhancing views of the castle and the river. (Click on the image to see larger.)
There is also a chronic shortage of parking in Windsor, which makes life difficult for local shops and employers, not to mention residents. Such parking as there is, however, dominates the riverside area does not contribute to its ambiance or to that of Alexandra Gardens. A solution to this would be to put 1,600 or perhaps even 3,200 new spaces under the park (similar to what they have done in Palma). This would have the advantage of raising the park up slightly so that it was better connected with the river and enable Barry Avenue to be grassed over, significantly expanding the park. New buildings, offices or residential, could then replace the surface car parks. If these were in the style of a Georgian terrace it would upgrade Alexandra Gardens to be more like Regent’s Park in London.
Note that the ‘do-nothing’ option for the railway does not mean no development on nearby land. The council has already commissioned consultants to look at their options and are keen to make more money from the coach park through development. Other nearby land owners will also eventually develop their sites, so the choice is not between development and not development but whether development is piecemeal or done as part of a larger master plan to maximise the social benefits.
Modern civil engineering is considerably more solid than on, say, the Circle Line in London. Also, the line is not expected to be open to the air at any point except the tunnel portals. This, combined with other innovations such as metal impregnated rubber for sleepers, is expected to make total noise disturbance considerably less than today, improving on the tranquillity of the riverside parks and gardens.
Being on a dead end means that it is more expensive for the rail company to serve Windsor. Having two dead ends makes it doubly expensive. Whilst we could in theory increase train services from the existing stations, there is no business case to support this. However, by combining services to Windsor with through traffic, we then have the business case not only to create better services for the region but also for Windsor. WLR’s proposal is for double the frequency of existing trains to both Paddington and Waterloo and a reduction of over 10 minutes in average journey times.
Both existing stations will be preserved but put to new use. This has already effectively happened for the Central Station when it was converted to a shopping centre. Riverside Station would make a beautiful lobby for a hotel, an extension to the school opposite or some other public use and is likely be better preserved than it is today.
None. By joining the lines up rather than the stations and using a tunnel all the listed buildings are preserved. Better still, it creates an opportunity to improve their settings and making the whole riverside area more pleasant.
Most of the work will be at the tunnel portals and it is fortunate that both of these are well away from the main thoroughfares and residential areas. WLR also plans to make good use of the river for transporting aggregate in and spoil out – again we are fortunate that their are convenient locations for wharfs by both tunnel portals.
This is not to say that there will be no disruption. Even though Crossrail, for example, was underground surface works were still necessary. That took 3 years for 26 miles of tunnelling. WLR has just 300 yards of tunnel and we estimate this part of the construction should take under a year. We are not anticipating that many businesses will need to close or relocate but those that do will be fully compensated. There is no significant loss of business or disruption anticipated to the main trading areas of the town or to tourism generally during construction. Likewise, commuter journeys should be able to continue with at least one station and mostly both stations open at all times. Once complete, of course, trade and other journeys should be significantly improved.
WLR’s proposal is that the additional parking is accessed via a new road in front of the leisure centre. This will drastically relieve some of the most congested and polluted roads in Windsor, such as Arthur Road. It is further proposed to straighten the roads from Datchet, taking it away from the riverside, which will further reduce congestion in the conservation area. This is in addition to the fact that many more people will be able to come to Windsor by train, further reducing congestion. It should also be noted that more parking is not a compulsory element of the scheme and residents may wish to prioritise other things.
WLR includes a park-n-ride scheme. Combined with the railway, this will dramatically improve access to the town and reduce pollution. The preferred site is be just north of the M4, on the site of the current tip at Chalvey, which has the advantage of not being Green Belt and acting as a catalyst for improvement of that area as well. Other sites near the railway line could also be possible.
The intention is to apply for initial planning permission in 2018. This would be followed by a Development Consent Order in 2020. The earliest that trains would be operational is 2022.
Building disruption for the main tunnel is anticipated to take less than a year, with all rail construction completed within two years.
Yes, in theory. All the elements of the scheme are options, not compulsory. However, WLR has been presented as an integrated scheme because all the elements complement each other both in planning policy and politically.
For example, the property helps the railway get started but also makes the property development sustainable. Building several hundred thousand square feet of new accommodation would put a probably unacceptable burden on Windsor’s roads without significant investment in infrastructure. Windsor is already in breach of air quality statutory limits and this would make it worse. Relatively modest proposals for multi-story car parks on Alma Road and the coach park were furiously rejected by residents the last time they were proposed, with one of the largest petitions ever. WLR, by contrast, had a larger petition in its favour.
Yes, doing the railway on its own is an option. Unfortunately, however, there is a very long queue for schemes and Network Rail is struggling to keep up so we would probably wait for decades. Also, having demonstrated the appetite for funding this way, HM Treasury would be unlikely to look kindly on adding to Network Rail’s debt.
Not using the new rail link as an opportunity to improve the Windsor riverside would also be a lost opportunity. When the railways first came to Windsor, they were a catalyst for much that is beautiful in Windsor today, including Thames Street and the Long Walk, the front of the town. We think we can do just as well with back of the town, the riverside and improve the views of the castle. Also, rail links are not the only problem the town faces; we have severe parking and traffic congestion problems. These still need addressing.
FAQ – Technical
The tunnel will be constructed using a cut-n-cover method, strictly-speaking making it a covered-way. It will go from the existing line from Waterloo by the Home Park, under Datchet Road and Thames Avenue (behind the theatre). The new station will be in the central area of Windsor. A second covered-way will then reconnect with the existing alignment just south of the Brunel-designed bridge over the Thames leading to Slough.
The sides of the covered ways will be made from secant pile walls, with a number of techniques available depending on the ground conditions at different points. These can be constructed one wall at a time, meaning that when building under busy roads, one half of the road can be kept open at all times during construction, minimising disruption.
Almost every tunnel in the Thames Valley is under the water table and many are by rivers. Building a new tunnel (and even a big underground car park) in Windsor is not, therefore, a particular engineering challenge. We could even use it as an opportunity to improve flood protection for the whole of central Windsor.
The land is currently owned by a variety of owners with the biggest being Network Rail and the council. WLR has an exclusivity agreement with Network Rail with respect to its land in Windsor for purpose of bringing forward the scheme, subject to a development agreement and a public interest test. Depending on the final design, third party sites could also included. These would be by mutual consent where possible or via compulsory purchase. For rail assets this would be via the Transport & Works Act or for a wider regeneration via the Town & County Planning Act.
In either case, private owners would be fully compensated at above pre-scheme market rates. Final land ownership would be for negotiation between the parties. For example, the freehold of council land may stay with the council. Network Rail may also choose to buy back the rail infrastructure or it could be owned by a private investment fund such as a pension scheme.
Even the original railways, which were entirely funded by private capital, needed government permission and policy support to happen. In the case of Windsor, we also need council land because this cannot be compulsory purchased and to help fund the initial development of the railway. The council and government’s return should be many times the cost of its land both in cash terms and, even more so, in social benefit. Also, if the council wishes to use the railway (as it did when the railways were first built) as an opportunity to improve the town more generally then council support will also be necessary to deliver an integrated scheme.
Yes, the WLR feasibility study including provision trains up to 200m (10-12 carriages) in length. The new station at Windsor will be able to take two at once.
At Slough, the existing bay platform will be lengthened and again there is room for two 200m trains simultaneously.
Four trains per hour to Windsor Riverside is already required by the latest SWR franchise so it is assumed the paths are available to Waterloo. WLR will simply extend this service to Slough. At least part of the train on the viaduct is likely to re-doubled. New signalling at Feltham is likely to help increase capacity as does the recently re-opened former international station at Waterloo.
Heathrow southern access is a potential threat to train services to Windsor, with some proposals suggesting diverting trains to Windsor from Waterloo to Heathrow instead. WLR makes this less likely.
Windsor Riverside currently has DC powered (third rail) trains. Windsor Central was to be overhead-electrified, as part of the West Coast main line, but this was cancelled due to cost overruns so it remains diesel-powered.
WLR has consulted with the regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, as part of its feasibility study and found a number of viable options for power. These include extending the third rail to Slough, continued diesel operation, overhead power and on-train power (batteries or hydrogen). A decision on which mode to choose will be taken during the optioneering study.
The gradients will be less than 5% at all points on the ramps leading to the new station. This includes allowance for flat areas for the station itself and points at either end of the platforms.
The maximum curve on the new line will be no greater than at present, a 300m radius.
The station platform will have a slight curve of a 1,000m radius, making it comply with modern safety standards.
What residents think
WLR delivered leaflets to 3,000 central Windsor residents and 92% said yes
All comments are gratefully received and you’ll always get a reply.