George Bathurst battles tunnel vision

Sunday, February 21 2010

Windsor Link Railway route diagram. WLR Berkshire Ltd.

(Click image to see original on WLR website.)

Thanks to the proximity of Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, the area around the Thames Valley towns of Maidenhead, Windsor, Slough, West Drayton and Staines is a busy economic hub. The area’s importance to the UK economy is reflected by two major rail schemes. Heathrow Airport is targeted to have its own station connected to HS2, if and when, the UK’s high speed link to North is ever built. Maidenhead and Slough will be served by Crossrail, always supposing that the project is not mothballed by the Tories after the general election. While these big rail projects reflect the importance of the local economy since the IT boom of the 1980s, the area’s branch line’s are still saddled with the consequences of the Beeching Plan thinking of the 1960s: the Maidenhead – High Wycombe line is truncated at Bourne End; the West Drayton – Staines branch survives only as a ‘long siding’ to the Colnbrook incinerator; the West Drayton – Uxbridge branch has been built over; the west curve of the Slough triangle has now been incorporated into the roads of a housing estate.

Now, George Bathurst, a local businessman, has proposed ‘connecting the dots’ by reversing some of the cuts and plugging some of the missing gaps in the network. At the core of his proposals is a brand new station at Windsor which would link the ex GWR and ex LSWR branches and building a spur from Staines to Heathrow. The proposed links would connect rail-served locations to the West of Heathrow to the airport and save millions of car journeys each year. In addition the new links would strengthen the case for restoring the Maidenhead – High Wycombe link as recommended by ATOC last year.

Because abandoned rail routes have not been safeguarded from encroaching development, Mr Bathurst’s plans would be more expensive to realise than they need be. However, they are not prohibitively so and the financial case is strong. In addition the area which suffers from major traffic congestion and gridlocks completely if there is a major incident on the M$ or M25 motorways. Sadly, 50 years after the Beeching plan, so deeply is the inevitable demise of feeder rail services etched into the national psyche, that even rail sympathetic politicians have pronounced Mr Bathurst’s plans as unlikely to be realised. Here’s hoping that Mr Bathurst and his company, WLR Berkshire Ltd, will prove the sceptics wrong!




  1. For sure, some resourceful ‘thinking outside the box’ here. The High Wycombe – Aylesbury – Bedford arm of the envisaged Windsor Link North initially prompted in me, a ‘What the hell… ?’ reaction. The post’s text explains the envisaged Bourne End – High Wycombe reinstatement, but further out… I take it that route being looked at, is H.W. – Princes Risborough – Aylesbury – Great Central line in situ as far as Calvert curve, thence on to Oxford – Bletchley – Bedford line. A rather twisty and tortuous way-from-A-to-B, but there are – still with passenger service – routes even more so, as a result of closures over the past half-century.

  2. The Windsor link is something I’ve dreamt about for long time.

    It would probably be best done in the current financial circumstances with a local PFI project, the Chamber of Commerce boosting, backing and raising the money for the link.

    In my scheme both Central and Riverside would be retained.

    Central would be a historic station, giving visitors a chance to arrive in the town as the Royals would have done, with a steam service.

    Riverside would be retained as the but end of a Waterloo service, but 80% of traffic would go through the new union or “Royal” station.

    Let’s get digging!

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