"We hope three trains an hour could be running to Dorset by 2026."

That is the message from Graham Cross, chief executive of Heathrow Southern Railway (HSRL), who are preparing plans to a £1 billion rail link which will link Dorset with the UK's biggest airport.

In an exclusive interview with the Dorset Echo, Mr Cross said that the new Heathrow Rail Link will boost Dorset's economic growth as well as providing new business opportunities and boost tourism.

Under Heathrow's Southern Railway proposals, an independent venture set up to build the rail link, the new route could see trains from Woking head directly to Heathrow Airport from the South Western Mainline which runs between London Waterloo and Weymouth.

Mr Cross, added: "The line will provide a direct connection to the Wessex region which will benefit for the whole of the South East and Dorset.

"We hope it will provide a quick and convenient rail connection from Weymouth and Bournemouth and hope to start this as soon as the line opens in 2026 providing new opportunities for business and tourists.

"However it won't just create a direct connection, we also hope to provide a connection to Old Oak Common in London to connect with High Speed Two giving passengers an easier connection."

"Service levels we hope could see three trains an hour run to Dorset by the time the line opens."

“HSRL’s scheme for southern rail access to Heathrow is well developed, and the work carried out by AECOM and the rest of our expert team confirms it is a viable, deliverable and affordable proposal for growing the proportion of passengers accessing the airport by train.”

Mr Cross added that it expects that it could be used by as many as 33,000 people per day, and remove 86 million car kilometres from Britain’s roads every year but now more companies are battling them with rival plans to build the scheme.

On the southern route into Heathrow, there are currently thought to be around four schemes which have been proposed, however the HSR bid is the only one to have been made public.

Hong Kong rail operator MTR, which co-owns the South Western Railway franchise with FirstGroup has also expressed interest in joining the bid to design, build, finance and operate the southern rail link.

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport told the Dorset Echo in a separate interview that the Heathrow Southern Rail bid was the most developed of the schemes to be submitted so far.

He added: "A southern new rail link connecting Heathrow is a huge opportunity to connect an additional 4.8 million passengers to Heathrow and treble our rail capacity by 2040."

As previously reported, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said earlier this year that he is now “committed” to bringing forward the proposed Southern Rail Link.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax welcomed Mr Cross' announcement improving rail links to Weymouth was vital to creating wealth and prosperity as well as putting Dorset on the map as a hub for a tourism in the UK.

He added: “Better connectivity for South Dorset is welcomed particularly from Heathrow as the implications for business and tourism would be extremely good.”

Lorna Carver, director, Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Our transport network is critical to the future growth and prosperity of Dorset – any investment in its infrastructure is to be welcomed.

"Rail connections to major cities and important airports need to be improved locally and regionally for our economy to grow and thrive.”

Bids for the Heathrow Southern Rail link are currently being considered by the Department for Transport and an announcement will be made in due course.