Have your say on plans to transform East-West rail services

People are being encouraged to take part in a consultation on plans for a rail link which will connect with Milton Keynes, Winslow and Bedford.

East West Rail will eventually connect Oxford in the west with Cambridge in the east, a ‘corridor’ running across the south of England which experts believe could become the UK’s answer to Silicon Valley. It will improve rail journeys for potentially millions of passengers by opening up new routes for regional and cross-country travel and reduce the need to go into London for onward connections.

It is being supported by the East West Rail Consortium, an alliance of councils including Oxfordshire County Council.

Network Rail is a holding a consultation on the section between Bicester Village and Bedford, including a spur between Princes Risborough and Milton Keynes via Aylesbury (known as the Western Section Phase Two) which began on June 30 and runs until August 11.

Public exhibition dates

  • Bicester (July 10, 12-8pm, John Paul II Centre, Henley House)
  • Launton (July 13, 12-8pm, Sports and Social Club, Bicester Road)

This part of the scheme will use existing rail lines, some of which have become freight only or, in other areas, have been mothballed. Trains should be running by the mid-2020s at the latest.

Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for Environment at Oxfordshire County Council whose portfolio includes strategic rail said:

“East West Rail is a once in a generation opportunity to secure a huge step in connectivity within Oxfordshire and across the whole Oxfordshire to Cambridgeshire area. It is a key part of the Government’s investment plan for the Oxford to Cambridge growth corridor, and the new infrastructure and rail services it provides would bring more frequent services in Oxfordshire directly connecting Bicester, Oxford and Didcot. This will in turn help reduce pressure on our busy road network, especially the A34.

“With phase 1 of the scheme between Oxford, Bicester and London already open and very successful, the consultation sets out what is proposed for Phase 2, to reopen the railway between Bicester and Milton Keynes/Bedford, along with a route down to Aylesbury. This in turn would link to the next section, the new route on to Cambridge. We encourage everyone in Oxfordshire to take a look at what is proposed and respond to the consultation before 11 August.”

Councillor Mark Shaw, chairman of the Joint Delivery Board for the Western Section, said: “East West Rail is about so much more than upgrading old bits of track to take on new passenger and freight services. It is an essential piece of infrastructure which will unlock the region’s huge economic potential and support planned housing growth - that’s why it has the support of the councils which sit along its route. We continue to lobby for it to be completed as soon as possible.

“However, I recognise that people who live near to the route may have questions about how East West Rail’s construction and new services could affect them. That’s why I’m encouraging as many people as possible to go along to the public exhibitions and speak directly to the engineers, planners, environmental experts and property specialists involved in the scheme. Residents can also submit their views to Network Rail’s consultation, so please, make your voice heard.”

Phase One of the Western Section, a link between Oxford, Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village, was completed last year. The Central Section, between Bedford and Cambridge, is the most challenging part of the scheme as much of the old railway has been built over. A route via Sandy has been identified as the ‘preferred corridor’ for a new line and work on this continues. Work is also continuing assessing ways the existing connections between Cambridge and Norwich and Ipswich in the Eastern Section can be improved.

Following a study of the region by the National Infrastructure Commission, its deputy chair, Sir John Armitt, said: "the corridor connecting Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford could be Britain’s Silicon Valley – a globally recognised centre for science, technology and innovation".

To take part in the consultation log on to ewrconsultation.co.uk. The consortium’s website is www.eastwestrail.org.uk