Latest Rail News

03.11.15

East West Rail delivery could be delayed by seven years

The East West Rail Western Section, between Oxford and Bedford and Aylesbury and Milton Keynes, may be delayed by three to seven years after a Network Rail draft recommendation suggested the project should be delivered in three phases instead of two.

Local authorities in the East West Rail consortium understand that plans to deliver a route between Oxford and Bedford could be pushed back for completion in 2022, resulting in the Aylesbury-Milton Keynes track sent to 2024 and enhancements to the Aylesbury-Princes Risborough line delayed until 2026.

Network Rail launched a consultation into phase 2 of the project – which included plans to upgrade and reconstruct existing and mothballed sections of track linking Bedford to Bicester and Milton Keynes to Princes Risborough – in September.

phase2 map2

By that time, phase 1 of the Western Section of East West Rail was already well underway, with track laying completed between Oxford Parkway and the Chiltern Main Line and upgrades between Oxford and Oxford Parkway due by spring 2016.

The whole project was due for completion by March 2019.

But the consultation, which closed on 16 October, had already started amid concerns that East West Rail was running behind schedule after the Office of Rail & Road (ORR) approved plans to ‘reprofile’ missed GRIP 3 milestones from November this year to August 2016.

Although the ORR’s deputy director claimed this change received support from operators, Chiltern raised concerns that the delay would put extra pressures on the timescales for the delivery of the project’s phase 2. RTM has asked Chiltern for comment on today’s delay recommendation, but has not yet heard back.

Network Rail’s most recent recommendation to split the project into three phases emerged shortly after a first round of public consultation on proposals – although it was publicised just days after rumours that East West Rail documents from the Hendy Review had been leaked.

The consortium understands that the recommendations are based on both cost and deliverability issues, but its local authorities are seeking further discussions with Sir Peter Hendy and the government.

Cllr Rodney Rosey, chairman of the joint delivery board for East West Rail Western Section, said the group wants to understand Network Rail’s position and stressed the “critical importance” of the project to the local and regional economy.rose rodney1-200x280

“There is real concern about the effect on the economic momentum if East West Rail isn’t delivered on time, and risk to investment in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire.

“To this end, we have sought discussions with [Hendy] and Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne. Before any decisions are taken, we need to ensure that the government is fully aware of potential implications that any delay could have on the economy, job creation and planned housing growth,” he said.

Consortium members are also developing practical solutions to reduce the cost and deliverability barriers within the scheme.

Counter-recommendations drafted so far include deferring the electrification of the Bedford-Oxford line and starting passenger services using diesel trains for now.

Cllr Rosey noted that Iain Stewart MP, who chairs the APPG for East West Rail, had already raised the delay issue in Parliament but is now reiterating the case for the railway with transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

MPs in regions along the line have also been asked to support the drive by raising concerns with the Department for Transport.

“Government decisions on rail investments are expected to be announced in late November or early December, and we’ll do our utmost to influence the outcome. This is not just about the railway, but about the real benefits that it will bring to the people in our communities,” Cllr Rosey concluded.

Comments

Pedr   03/11/2015 at 16:13

The first rule of any railway from a tinplate toy train upwards is Get Something Running. First lay your track and run some sort of train on it. I never thought I would be saying 'even refurbished Pacers' but if that is all there is.... Milton Keynes is now one of the bigger towns in the area and the road to Oxford - an upgraded B road in part - is crowded. A train such as we used to have would be far better. You can add the fancy stuff such as electrification once you have something running, but please let us have something quickly. Look, if you put on a clockwork train, I'll help you to wind the key....

John Grant   03/11/2015 at 18:26

This at the same time as £500k is to be spent planning a new road along much the same route. Is this Tory government channelling their predecessor of the 1960s, Ernest Marples and all?

John   03/11/2015 at 21:23

Oh for goodness sake, this needs some real spine behind it not just hot air. It needs real trains not bloody Pacers because if they think that you will accept any old junk, then that is precisely whatyou will get - junk casted down from elsewhere and you will be stuck with it!!

Colin R   04/11/2015 at 00:59

Where would the diesel trans come from anyway? There are already nothing like enough to run existing services. Network Rail seem to have completely lost the plot on electrification.

Simon J   04/11/2015 at 08:32

Lay the track - electrification is not as importand as getting the service running! It doesn't need fancy overhead wires - I see no case being made for electrifying the M1 for overhead powered road vehicles. DMU cascade and YES even new build but get the track laid first - better return than HS2.

B Ward   04/11/2015 at 14:28

Stop! Go! Stop! Go! Policies waste a lot of money

Long Branch Mike   04/11/2015 at 14:37

Didn't NR have a contingency plan if the electrification didn't go as planned? If not, why not? It's not like electrification delays have not been experienced before...

Long Branch Mike   04/11/2015 at 14:48

I echo John Grant's point "This at the same time as £500k is to be spent planning a new road along much the same route. Is this Tory government channelling their predecessor of the 1960s, Ernest Marples and all?" Roads are exactly the wrong investment to make. Rail is much more efficient for moving passengers and freight. Much more investment in rail is needed to continue the virtuous circle of rail usage growth. We may have already passed Peak Car, and young people are increasingly choosing public transport over private autos.

Mars Express   05/11/2015 at 17:58

This is a monstrous waste of public money. Ordinary people cannot afford to travel on these trains, anyway - there're just for the over-paid and people banned from driving. What we really, REALLY, need is a decent road, so that we can travel where we want, when we want!

M Brooks   05/11/2015 at 21:22

Let's ignore Mars Express, shall we? I agree with those who say "Get the track in". After all, Bicester to Bletchley isn't very far. As long as passive provision is made for future electrification, we can start with diesel: yes, there will be available DMUs cascaded from elsewhere - they don't have to be Pacers. Highways England is already consulting on the proposed Oxford-Cambridge Expressway (first stakeholder meeting is next week). The rail line has got to beat the road to it, otherwise its business case will be undermined.

Penny Worth   07/11/2015 at 15:33

Now Oxford-Bicester's done as a Chiltern Rail (non-electric) link, suggest next phase of Western section is a similar Bicester-Bletchley link. Running any (but preferably Chiltern) diesels, passengers from Oxford could then change at Bletchley onto existing services east to Bedford & north to Milton Keynes etc (and vice versa). Freight could also use the link. Other track sections, through-running trains & electrification of the entire line can be done later as necessary - although then with greater disruption & cost.

A.D. Clarke   29/07/2016 at 18:34

Indeed, a trunk Oxford-Cambridge motorway type road has been planned since the 1960's and it was probably this that led to closure of the line in 1967. It wasn't even on the Beeching hit list! Since then Milton Keynes with over 300,000 residents has been built. I travelled on the Oxford-Bletchley line in the '60's then in the '80's on a special train. It is mostly straight, and even has some of the old track. Fast transit was formerly possible, despite level crossings and local stations. Network Rail's plans seem over specified.Unless it is 100mph, electric, and gauged for the biggest containers they don't seem interested. But as previous commentators say, -just get the track bed cleared, lay track and get some trains going. The project should be phased, but not postponed.

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