Network Rail asks government for East West Rail go-ahead between Bedford and BicesterJul 31, 2018
begin construction of phase 2 of the project to reopen the Varsity Line between Oxford and Cambridge.
Phase 1, the reopening of the line between Bicester and Oxford, has been running since 2016. The second phase proposes major track and signalling upgrades between Bicester, Bedford, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes, including the reinstatement of a mothballed section of railway between Bletchley and Claydon Junction near Winslow.
The proposed works will see major improvements to local travel, with the phased introduction of new rail journeys between:
- Oxford and Milton Keynes, with trains stopping at Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow and Bletchley.
- Oxford and Bedford, with trains stopping at Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow, Bletchley, Woburn Sands and Ridgmont.
- Milton Keynes and Aylesbury, with trains stopping at Bletchley, Winslow and Aylesbury Vale Parkway.
The government has been asked for the green light via a Transport and Works Act Order. If granted, work could begin next year.
Cllr Mark Shaw, chairman of the East West Rail Consortium of Councils which has campaigned for the reopening of the Varsity Line since 1995, said: “After more than 20 years of campaigning, the submission of the TWAO is a hugely significant milestone.
“I’d really encourage people to give their views directly to the Department for Transport and leave them in no doubt about the public’s appetite for getting trains on tracks as soon as possible.”
The Western Section (phase 2) proposes to extend services from Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury. The Central Section (phase 3) will see the full reconnection from Cambridge to Oxford – the proposal is currently in development due to the need for a new route between Bedford and Cambridge.
Bedford Mayor Dave Hodgson, who also chairs the England’s Economic Heartland’s Strategic Transport Forum, said: “We now need the route between Bedford and Cambridge to be confirmed as soon as possible, so that delivery of the full scheme can be achieved within the government’s stated target of the mid-2020s.
“The government has made realising the huge economic potential of this region a national priority and East West Rail is fundamental to delivering this. It will support new jobs and housing and also be a catalyst for regenerating the towns and cities across its route.”
Submission of the Transport and Works Act follows three positive rounds of community consultation.
Colin Murphy, Network Rail’s head of consenting and environment for the East West Rail project said: “I’d like to thank everyone who contributed. As intended the feedback we received has informed our final proposals. Once completed, the new railway will connect communities and businesses along the route and beyond, creating new opportunities for jobs, housing and economic growth.”
The project will be delivered by the East West Railway Company, set up by the government. Chairman Rob Brighouse said: “East West Railway Company’s role is to streamline decision making and ensure the project is delivered quickly and cost-effectively.
“We will lead the development, procurement and delivery of this transformational project, with the support of the community and our delivery partners.
“Network Rail’s announcement is very welcome and shows our shared commitment to move all elements of the project from planning to delivery as quickly as possible.”