East West Rail will restore services between Oxford, Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury, connecting a number of towns and cities earmarked for significant economic and housing growth.
The National Infrastructure Commission believes the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge arc can become the UK’s answer to Silicon Valley.
Passengers from Northampton would access services following a 20-minute journey to Bletchley.
The England’s Economic Heartland alliance, which includes Northamptonshire County Council, says that East West Rail also provides an opportunity to create a new north-south strategic corridor connecting Northampton, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury with Old Oak Common, a major regeneration zone in London which will be the catalyst for 25,000 new homes and 65,000 new jobs when it opens in 2026.
Old Oak Station will be an interchange for the Heathrow Express, HS2 and Crossrail. Network Rail has suggested that the new north-south corridor is needed to provide relief to the Chiltern mainline into London Marylebone.
Northamptonshire County Council leader Cllr Heather Smith, who chairs England’s Economic Heartland’s Strategic Transport Forum, said: “We all know the benefits East West Rail will bring to Northampton in terms of providing connections to cities such as Oxford and Cambridge and faster travel to Bedford.
“However, although it might not be obvious from its name, East West Rail actually has the potential to benefit all points on the compass.
“A new north-south rail corridor between Northampton, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury will provide a step change in connectivity between key centres of growth in the arc. An added benefit is the opportunity to gain direct access to significant new economic and travel opportunities, not only at Old Oak Common – which provides an express connection to Heathrow – but also in Buckinghamshire.
“However, to enable additional passenger services on the section between Northampton and Milton Keynes it is vital that the opportunity to reallocate use of capacity on the West Coast mainline, which HS2 will create when it opens in 2026, is used appropriately.
“That is why England’s Economic Heartland is working with the Department for Transport and prospective train operators to ensure the region’s strategic requirements are taken into account.”
England’s Economic Heartland is the emerging sub-national transport body for the Oxford to Cambridge region, which the National Infrastructure Commission believes should be a “national priority”.
East West Rail’s western section between Oxford and Bedford should be fully open by 2022, with the Aylesbury to Milton Keynes branch following in 2024.
The government is aiming for the central section between Bedford and Cambridge – for which there is no existing line – to be open by the mid-2020s.