Richings Park and Thorney Residents Association

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Railway Issues

Western Rail Approach to Heathrow (Wrath)

Following on from the public exhibitions we have learned that it is their intention to close Hollow Hill Lane completely and forever to allow the railway line to cross at that point.  Not only does this scupper our chances of obtaining a relief road for HGVs but this will also force all traffic currently using the Market Lane/Hollow Hill Lane/Mansion Lane route to either divert into Langley High Street or through Richings Park and Iver High Street.  Clearly this is not acceptable.  However, a possible solution was discussed informally with their representatives, the results being as follows:

“When I spoke to them about putting a road under the main line railway in an underpass (what they call a box!) to create a relief road they claimed that this was not an option they had thought of.  I know that several people have spoken to them about this but I think that there has been a misunderstanding as we have talked about a "tunnel" under the railway; their understanding of a tunnel is a deep structure and thought that people wanted the whole road in a tunnel which would not be feasible.  The upshot was that they thought that a box under the railway for a road was much more feasible than a bridge over and volunteered the fact that the road accessing the tunnel vent from North Park was now going to have to be of a higher spec than previously envisioned as the vent building is now proposed to house the tunnel service depot as well when the service is operational.  It would therefore not be too difficult to get it upto HGV spec.

So the southern route for a relief road might be back on the books!”


Therefore, we need people to respond on their forms that we want a box under the railway for a relief road!  The response form can be accessed HERE.



Heathrow Express

Currently Heathrow Express use Old Oak Common as a maintenance area for their premium service between London Paddington and Heathrow.  As a result of the HS2 project Network Rail require Heathrow Express to vacate this site and move elsewhere.

We queried this with Heathrow Airport as we thought that the Western Rail Approach to Heathrow Project (WRatH ) would mean that the Heathrow Express would become redundant.  Heathrow Airport though seem keen to retain their premium service even though it makes no commercial sense once Wrath are up and running.

Network Rail have identified the old Total Oil depot at Langley as being suitable for a new depot and were exhibiting plans for this at the Sports Club on Wednesday June 17 from 2:00pm to 8:00pm.

We have a concern that the realignment of tracks that will need to be made to avoid Crossrail and Wrath trains will mean that the old Chequers Bridge will have to be demolished and the road closed at that point forever.  This has a knock-on effect of meaning that it would scupper the chances of a relief road being created to take HGVs from Thorney Business Park , the Ridgeway Estate and Court Lane.

This project was raided in a Parliamentary Debate on June 23rd when both Fiona McTaggart, MP for Slough, and Dominic Grieve, our MP, both spoke against the proposal.  The text below comes from the Hansard record of the debate.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Unlike the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), I do not welcome the order.

I have to say thank you to the Minister, who has been very courteous in informing me of what is coming up. That is in quite a degree of contrast to the HS2 project team, which has not kept Slough Borough Council fully aware of what is being proposed, and it has come to a bit of a shock to the council. As a place, Slough is very supportive of big transport infrastructure projects. Heathrow airport’s third runway will come into the borough of Slough, if it happens, yet we are backing it because we realise that these kinds of projects are essential to national economic growth. However, Slough has not been kept fully informed of what has happened, and therefore, I echo the concerns of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) about the consultation period on these areas happening in July and August. Although the Minister is right to say that not everybody goes on holiday in July and August, that is when most of my constituents with children do. Because Slough thought that HS2 was to do with other parts of the world and had nothing to do with Slough—none of the original proposals involved anything to do with Slough—it will not be geared up for petitioning, whereas communities on the route of HS2 were geared up by newspaper stories and so on. That is a real issue.

The other issue is that paragraph 1(b) of the proposal has nothing to do with HS2; it is about the Heathrow Express. It turns out that the Heathrow Express terminal is to be moved. I wonder why. I hate to speculate, but is it possibly because, owing to the land values at Old Oak Common, the land can be flogged off for expensive housing? Those land values are rather bigger than land values in Langley, where that will not be possible. It strikes me that a possible reason for our suddenly finding that we need to move the Heathrow Express terminal is that we can make more money out of what happens in Old Oak Common. I do not know that, and if the Minister would like to intervene and assure me that that is not true, that would be nice.

Mr Goodwill: I point out to the right hon. Lady that I talked about operational problems, and one of the problems with the North Pole East depot is that it would require train movements across the Great Western main line. Maintenance works on the Great Western towards Paddington would also mean that the Heathrow Express depot at North Pole East would not be able to operate.

Fiona Mactaggart: That is what the Minister is told, but at least that depot is somewhere on the Heathrow Express route. The proposed depot is not on that route; it is actually to the west of the Heathrow Express route. I point out that the Heathrow Express franchise expires in 2023, so this is not necessarily a long-term need. I am deeply concerned about the western link into Heathrow, which is critical, and I am grateful to the Department for the way it has proceeded on that. It is obvious to me that at some point the western rail link into Heathrow and the Heathrow Express will become a merged franchise. There is land at Reading where the depot could be situated at that point.

I am worried that this is a short-term solution that has been invented because someone faced a problem with the Heathrow Express. In the motion, we are being asked to solve a short-term problem, which I accept exists, in a way that is not long-term and strategic. The Department could say, “This franchise expires in 2023 and, until then, Heathrow has a monopoly on it, but if Heathrow wants its third runway”—we do not know what the Davies commission will say—“perhaps there should be a price. Perhaps the price should be giving up the franchise and looking at how we can integrate it more intelligently into the rest of the rail network.” That would be a strategic way of dealing with this matter and it would help us to accelerate western rail access into Heathrow.

In the Minister’s courteous letters to me today, he wrote:

“The relocation of the Heathrow Express depot is both an opportunity for Slough and important part of the Phase One project”.

I do not think that it is an opportunity for Slough, because the jobs that come with it are just ones that are being moved down the line from Old Oak Common, where they are at the moment, to Langley. I tell him that that does not mean more jobs for my constituents; it means that people will commute from where they currently live to Langley.

Mr Goodwill: Some of the land that is required for construction will be returned once the depot is complete, so that land will not be lost altogether in respect of job creation in the right hon. Lady’s area.

Fiona Mactaggart: Actually, most of the land that the depot will be on is housing land. I represent the most overcrowded borough in the country, outside London, in terms of housing. In fact, it is more overcrowded than most London boroughs. There is a real need for housing in Slough. I am told by the council that this land has been identified as being able to provide 200 to 300 homes for local people. It will not be available for those homes when it has been used.

The construction of the depot will have an impact on air quality in an area that is already affected by a big incinerator, Heathrow and the biggest motorway junction in Europe, which will affect my constituents. As the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) pointed out, these plans will frustrate other issues, such as HGV links and western rail access to Heathrow.

I know that there will be petitions from Slough, but I also know that there will not be as many petitions from Slough as there have been from other communities on the route, because it came as a big surprise to the people of Slough about a week ago that this was happening to them. They can only intervene over the next few weeks—a very short space of time—when some of them will be dealing with their children’s end-of-term plays and planning to go on holiday. I predict that my constituents will be panicked about this and that, although they welcome major transport infrastructure projects because they know that we need them to create prosperity for Britain, they will think that they have been badly treated in this process. I have to say, I believe that they are right.

4.44 pm

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I will make a brief contribution on the plans, so far as they concern Iver. The right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) raised the consequences of the new depot for Slough. As my hon. Friend the Minister will be aware, if one looks at the plans, they show that the land take extends beyond the boundary of Slough and as far as Iver station.

My constituents in Iver obviously live some distance from the main HS2 route and have not previously been concerned with it, except in so far as the Heathrow link plan affected them before it was withdrawn. The scheme raises two distinct problems. First, it is difficult to understand what effect it will have on the western rail link into Heathrow. I would be interested as soon as possible to hear from the Secretary of State and from my hon. Friend the Minister as to how that impact will work in practice.

Secondly, I have in the past written to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to point out to him that Iver is experiencing a catastrophic problem with heavy goods vehicle movements. The number of transport depots in the immediate vicinity of the village, many of which have grown up out of existing planning uses that predate the arrival of planning control, mean that the village is slowly being strangled by the HGV movements. If one stands in Iver village high street, one will see a heavy goods vehicle coming through every 58 seconds on average. It is a narrow village shopping street and the planning development has taken place in complete disregard of those facts.

There is a possibility of relieving that by the construction of a relief road running into the back of one of those sites, but the road has to cross the path and the line of the proposed new depot. My constituents’ anxiety is that that long-sought road project will be rendered even more difficult to achieve because it is not factored in to the construction of the depot. The construction of the depot might provide the ideal moment for the construction of road, but if that does not take place when the depot is constructed, it might be impossible thereafter for it to occur at all.

As I have said, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been aware of my concerns for some time. I was aware that the scheme was around in the background, but there has been no prior notice to me of any kind that it would finally be brought to fruition. I am concerned that the Committee may not be in the best position to evaluate those issues when it comes to consider them under the petitioning process. I want to take the opportunity today to flag up my serious concerns about the knock-on consequences of the project. I can reassure my hon. Friend the Minister that, if we could use the process to provide reassurance that we will have such a back route into the Ridgeway trading estate, I am sure many of my constituents might even see some positives from the proposal, although I am mindful from what the right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) said about Slough’s housing requirements that there are serious knock-on consequences.

I hope my hon. Friend the Minister can take those concerns on board. I want to flag up at this stage and repeatedly that the proposal will be unacceptable if it leaves Iver even more isolated and prey to the HGV traffic it suffers from currently.

We have received the summary report by The House of Lords which you might recall we petitioned along with the Iver Community Facebook Group and Iver Parish Council . We are referred to in this excerpt:
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Iver Parish Council, Ivers Community Group and Richings Park
Residents’ Association (petition nos. 639, 702 and 666)
89. The petitioners drew attention to the impact of construction traffic on Iver. As a result of the construction of HS2 in Old Oak Common, the Heathrow Express depot has to be moved to Langley, near Slough.

90. As it was, the petitioners argued, the area was already under considerable strain on account of many other proposed infrastructure projects in the locality, for example, the construction of Crossrail and Western Rail access to Heathrow. HS2 was set to bring 500 HGVs a day onto the local roads, adding to the existing congestion, and compounding concerns about noise, pollution and safety. Other communities, the petitioners argued, had received
dedicated funding on account of the special effects that the railway would have on them: Calvert,18 Great Missenden (£500,000) and Slough (£6.25 million). The petitioners requested that Iver also receive dedicated funding to offset the impact of the project.

91. The promoter conceded that HS2 would, for the period of construction of the depot, add significant numbers of HGVs throughout the day to existing traffic flows. Construction impacts, however, whilst significant, would only last for around a year, and would cease when the depot had been constructed.
There was no case for Iver to receive a specific funding allocation. Instead, the community had the opportunity to bid for funding under the community and environment fund and the business fund, and the recently introduced road safety fund.

92. We have found the principal point raised by these petitioners difficult, not least because comparisons with other locations on the route are both invidious and in a sense irrelevant—each case needs to be determined on its own merits. It does seem to us, however, that Iver is a special case and we invite the promoter to re-consider whether the provision of a specific allocation might be appropriate.
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