Network Rail’s National Delivery Service (NDS) has signed a five-year contract worth over £600m with DB Schenker, Freightliner Heavy Haul, GBRf, Direct Rail Services and Colas Rail to provide haulage in different proportions for its fleet of engineering trains.

The contract will cover possession trains, high output renewals, rail head treatment trains, snow and ice treatment trains, apart from shunting and support services.

NDS director Martin Elwood said: "With a guaranteed volume, we and our suppliers will be able to plan ahead and we are confident this agreement will put us in a strong position to support the biggest investment in our railway in the modern era."

"Our plans for a new rail link to Heathrow from the west will dramatically improve rail links."

Network Rail has also revealed its proposals for a new future rail link from the Great Western main line to London Heathrow airport.

The rail link is expected to be in place by 2021, and will enable passengers to travel from Reading and Slough to Heathrow airport through a direct train service.

Network Rail Western route managing director Patrick Hallgate said: "Our plans for a new rail link to Heathrow from the west will dramatically improve rail links, reduce congestion on existing rail services and provide a boost to the local economy.

"It’s important that we take the opportunity to discuss these plans so we can ensure the investment made in a bigger, better railway delivers maximum benefit."

Network Rail is planning to engage with other interested parties and local authorities on the proposals over the course of the year and beyond.

Image: Network Rail’s high output ballast cleaner. Photo: courtesy of Network Rail.