The government is asking private companies to come up with investment ideas for rail projects including a southern rail link to Heathrow.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has launched a call for the private sector to put forward “market-led” proposals for investment in the UK rail network that will not require financial backing from the government.

This will include a possible new southern rail link to Heathrow airport – a project which is already being looked at by several consortia.

Grayling said: “By encouraging innovative ideas and new investment on our railways, we can relieve the burden on taxpayers and fare payers with projects that match our transport needs.

“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.”

The Department for Transport (DFT) added that proposed schemes had to “make commercial sense”, as well as building on the government’s investment in the rail network and having “the needs of passengers at their heart”.

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