Ipswich to Heathrow rail bid launched

THROUGH trains could be running from Ipswich to Heathrow Airport and Reading by the year 2020 if a group of rail experts have their way.

THROUGH trains could be running from Ipswich to Heathrow Airport and Reading by the year 2020 if a group of rail experts have their way.

Last week the government gave the long-awaited go-ahead for the Crossrail project, building a tunnel under central London and running trains from Shenfield to Maidenhead and Heathrow.

However now a consortium of senior rail managers has called for the tunnel to be used by longer-distance trains running from Ipswich, Cambridge, Stansted and Southend in the east to Reading, Northampton, Basingstoke, and Guildford in the west.

One of the promoters of the extended services - called Superlink - is Michael Schabas, who was a senior manager at GB Railways, which owned Anglia Railways.

He said: “The existing Crossrail proposal is very limited. It will cost a great deal and take a lot of time and money to run metro trains from Shenfield to Maidenhead.

“It makes much more sense to run longer distance trains - you would still have the same number going under London every hour - giving much better through journeys for passengers.”

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Crossrail envisages a tunnel from Stratford to Paddington, but Mr Schabas said it made more sense to extend the new line to Shenfield via Canary Wharf.

He said: “That would cost about £1billion more but it would be much more useful for passengers and there would be a link up to Cambridge and Stansted as well.”

Running trains to Ipswich would not require much further upgrading of the line north east from Shenfield - but it would make life easier for passengers.

The Crossrail tunnel is expected to take ten years to build, with services due to start in 2017.

Mr Schabas said an extra tunnel to Shenfield would take five years to cut - but it could be done at the same time as the main tunnel allowing the entire network to be opened at the end of the next decade.

Extended services could be opened in phases with a link from Stansted to Heathrow coming first, followed by the Southend to Reading route and lines to Ipswich and Northampton forming the final phase.

Rail link factfile:

Crossrail will cost £9.7 billion when it opens.

The full Superlink would cost £13.2 billion - but it would pay for itself with more passengers.

Crossrail is a partnership between TFL (Transport For London) and the private sector.

The Crossrail tunnel under London will handle 24 12-carriage trains in each direction every hour.

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