A new rail link to Heathrow from Waterloo station in London could be built under government plans.

A new private operator will be invited to build the eight-mile link to the mainline near the UK’s busiest airport, The Times reports today.

It would fall outside the usual scope of Network Rail, the state-funded infrastructure company.

The move will be billed as a significant step by the government, signalling an intention to give big rail upgrades to the private sector in the future.

A line between Oxford and Cambridge is already being built using a similar model.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling said that encouraging new investment in the railway would “relieve the burden on taxpayers and fare payers”.

The company would recoup its money through track access charges levied on train operators.

Grayling said today: “We are investing in the most significant modernisation of the UK rail network since Victorian times, and I want the knowledge and expertise of investors and local partners to contribute to delivering new connections, more services and better journeys for passengers.

“Heathrow is a perfect example of where this can make a real difference.

“Such schemes will help ensure the benefits of our major international hub are even more accessible to those across the west and south of the UK, providing vital links for travellers and exporters and attracting inward investment.”

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