IT is full steam ahead for the £500m western rail link to Heathrow after industry leaders met for a landmark round-table discussion.
The Government outlined its commitment to invest in the Western Rail Access to Heathrow (WRaTH) project - which could cut journeys from Heathrow to Slough to six minutes - in July.
The Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (TVB LEP), leading the project, has since established the Stakeholder Steering Group to drive forward development.
The group, made up of representatives from the TVB LEP, Heathrow Airport Limited, Network Rail, London Heathrow airlines consultative committee and First Great Western, met for the first time at the The Compass Centre, in Hounslow, near Heathrow Airport, on Friday last week.
Slough Borough Council chief executive Ruth Bagley, chair of the group and WRAtH project lead for TVB LEP, said: "I'm pleased to bring together key industry figures to work closely with Network Rail in support of the project through cooperation and expertise sharing.
"WRAtH has the potential to deliver benefits to many people, across a wide geographic area, and the role of the stakeholder group is to support this becoming a reality."
WRaTH will deliver direct rail services to Heathrow from Reading, via Maidenhead and Slough, with journey times reduced by up to 45 minutes.
The proposed rail link would directly serve Slough with four trains every hour - slashing travel times from 45 to six minutes.
The same amount of trains would stop at Reading, with two services calling at Maidenhead or Twyford every hour.
Steering group members agreed to start drawing up a conditional output statement - outlining passengers' expectations for the service - and explore possible funding models.
Ms Bagley added: "The group is helping to define a positive passenger experience, built on a foundation of reduced journey times to encourage passengers from road to rail.
"Our studies indicate that significant economic benefit arising from journey time savings and additional inward investment could be worth more than £2bn across the UK. Additional jobs, substantial reductions in road congestion and a reduction in CO2 emissions will also result."
The rail link, which would be a tunnel, could be operational by 2021.
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