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Chancellor accepts East West Rail targets and strengthens plans with extra cash

Chancellor Philip Hammond has confirmed the government’s commitment to completing the western section of East West Rail by 2024 and will commit new money to developing proposals for new stations, services and routes across the region.

The National Infrastructure Commission recently published a report looking at the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford growth corridor that recommended the DfT pressed ahead with East West Rail’s initial phase, as well as invest in developing “as soon as possible” detailed plans for both the next phase and for a new Oxford-Cambridge Expressway.

Delivering his Autumn Budget statement today, Hammond accepted these suggestions.

“Last week the National Infrastructure Commission published their report on the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor,” he told MPs. “Today we back their vision and commit to building up to one million homes by 2050, completing the road and rail infrastructure to support them.”

In the Budget document, the Treasury formally commits to the suggested 2024 deadline for the western section to allow services between Oxford and Bedford and Aylesbury and Milton Keynes. It also confirms that the new East West Rail Alliance company will accelerate the delivery of the central section of the scheme between Bedford and Cambridge, aiming for completion “by the mid-2020s” by leveraging private investment.

In partnership with local stakeholders, the government is also committing £5m to develop plans for Cambridge South station – the follow-up to the recently finished Cambridge North – and is starting a study on the enhancements needed to accommodate future rail growth across Cambridgeshire.

As a first step towards opening a station at Cowley, it will also provide £300,000 to co-fund a study of opportunities for new stations, services and routes across the Oxfordshire rail corridor.

Despite the new money announced today, the document's fine print clarifies that while £5m will be invested this year and £135m the next, no money has seemingly been allocated for the scheme in 2019-20 or 2020-21.

Andy Free, head of engineering assurance at East West Rail Alliance, recently spoke to RTM about the plans for the western section phase 2.

(Top image c. Richard Gray, EMPICS Entertainment)


Huguenot   22/11/2017 at 17:17

Why should opening Bicester to Bletchley take until 2023? It's less than 20 miles, Network Rail owns the land and the trackbed is all there. This section could easily be reopened by 2020, with Aylesbury to Calvert following on a year later since that section requires more works, e.g. track redoubling and extra platforms at Aylesbury Vale Parkway. Why do simple projects take so long?

ABB   22/11/2017 at 18:02

Because this is Britain; we are useless at just about everything.

James Miller   22/11/2017 at 19:37

As someone, who wrote Project Management software for forty years, I very much feel that the timetable could be reduced. I feel that an alliance working together should do better, as when this happens the performance seems to improve. I wonder if Bedford to Milton Keynes should be started early, as once this was completed, it could make a much improved feeder route connecfting the MML and the WCML Running 2 tph and it could be a nice little earner!

Noam   23/11/2017 at 09:57

It's staggering it should take another SIX YEARS to build a 20-mile railway along an existing alignment from Bicester to Bletchley. Even with the gold-plating, LC closures, newt catching etc on Oxford-Bicester, this section was built in around two years. The big blockade was only around 18 months.

John Edwards   23/11/2017 at 16:09

It would have been much easier and quicker to have opted for a busway.

Andrew Gwilt   24/11/2017 at 02:53

As long as he's got the money to rebuild and to reopen the East-West Rail Link and to build a new railway line between Bedford and Cambridge which would go via Sandy that will be part of the East-West Rail Link.

David   24/11/2017 at 14:29

And how would a busway have helped, John? It's useless for me and I live in Huntingdon

Mr CAMTRAIN   24/11/2017 at 14:37

Maybe one of the critical problems is a national shortage of graduate signal engineers within a multitude of railschemes and renewals.

Lutz   25/11/2017 at 16:27

Funding profile and delivery as late as possible to match demand growth. The majority of the new housing is not imminent.

Mark Hare   27/11/2017 at 11:57

@Huguenot - I agree that 2023 does seem a very long time given that the trackbed is still in situ between Bicester and Bletchley. However what remains of the line is in very poor condition and the work required to upgrade what was a single-track low-speed route to a double-track 100mph railway is very significant and certainly couldn't be achieved by 2020. Also, the 'track redoubling' between Aylesbury and Claydon you refer to has been removed from the scope of the project along with the electrification and track remodelling at the north end of Aylesbury station. It will now be a single line between Aylesbury and Claydon LNE Jn where it will join the double line from Oxford to Bletchley. Certainly seems to be a retrograde step removing electrification from the scope of the project, particularly as the Western section from Oxford to Bicester was planned and built with provision for OHLE to be installed at a later date.

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