MP leads debate urging government to keep East West Rail project on track

Dec 07, 2015

A recent review into all of Network Rail’s major infrastructure projects had put the re-opening of the East West line between Oxford and Cambridge at risk.

However, following a huge lobbying effort from the East West Rail Consortium, Local Councils and MPs across the region, the review stated that work on the next section of East West Rail would continue in CP5.

Mr Stewart, who chairs the Parliamentary Group for East West Rail and is MP for Milton Keynes South, pushed the Transport Minister for further clarification on delivery.

After raising the key benefits of the project such as the potential economic and housing growth, Mr Stewart said, “What I am seeking is the Department will do all it can to ensure that construction of the project can start in CP5 and will be completed as early as possible in CP6.”

Transport Minister Robert Goodwill  said: “I would like to reaffirm the government’s commitment to delivering East West Rail… The Secretary of State has accepted Sir Peter [Hendy]’s report subject to a short consultation with key stakeholders such as the East West Rail Consortium. No infrastructure schemes have been cancelled.”

He added: "Funding has been identified in Control Period 5 to continue development of East West Rail and secure the necessary planning powers to enable the project to be completed. Network Rail is also continuing its plans for East West Rail phase 2.”

After the debate Mr Stewart said: “I was pleased to receive the assurances from the minister. It certainly seems the project will continue without significant delays.

“I was also pleased to hear that by the end of 2016 the government are likely to have a clear timeframe for completion.”

The discussions came on the same day as the announcement on the official delivery partnership. An alliance between Network Rail, Atkins, Laing O’Rourke and VolkerRail will build East West Rail Phase 2, linking Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

The alliance is currently working on the outline design and construction programme for the scheme. It aims to submit an application for a Transport & Works Act order in autumn 2016.

Network Rail senior programme manager Andy Milne said: “The railway is vital to Britain’s economic health. We are carrying out this Railway Upgrade Plan scheme because we care about giving train passengers what they want and about building a strong economic future for people in the regions East West Rail will connect.”

The long-term aspiration of East West Rail is to extend the line to Cambridge, for services to run through to Ipswich and Norwich in the east, via Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge.

Rodney Rose,  chairman of the EWR Joint Delivery Board, said:

“The new train services on East West Rail are vital to support economic growth, planned housing developments and the creation of thousands of new jobs. We understand the challenges ahead. Our joint delivery approach means that we are using the combined expertise of Network Rail and the local authorities within the East West Rail Consortium to accelerate the delivery process.”

Network Rail’s route managing director Martin Frobisher said: “We are carrying out East West Rail, part of our national Railway Upgrade Plan, because we care about giving train passengers what they want and about building a strong economic future for people in the regions this scheme will connect.

“A connection from Oxford to Ipswich via Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge is a vital missing piece in our country’s rail network. That’s the end goal of EWR. Phase 2 will be major step towards making that a reality.” 

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