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Progress on East West Rail project will allow building to begin next year

Progress on enabling works for the East West Rail (EWR) line are near completion, with the transport secretary arguing the new rail line between Oxford and Cambridge will “transform” travel for passengers.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling visited Launton Junction in Bicester yesterday to see an update of the ‘Varsity Line’ which will connect Oxford, Bicester, Aylesbury, Milton Keynes, and Bedford with Cambridge – a line that is hoped to create one million homes between the two cities by 2050.

Grayling said EWR will “transform the journeys in one of Europe’s most vibrant economic regions,” providing passengers and businesses with a transport system that unlocks economic opportunity and drives forward new housing and jobs.

He added: “As a hub for technical and scientific innovation, home to world-class universities and a skilled workforce that drives growth, the success of England’s economic heartland is imperative to the UK’s prosperity and productivity.

“Rapid progress on the project means we will see construction underway on direct, fast and reliable services from next year, delivering significantly better connections for passengers.”

In response to environmental concerns that vehicles on the line would be diesel-powered, Grayling said: “We're on the edge of a rail power revolution. I was in Berlin seeing the new power technology in development of battery trains, of hydrogen trains. East West Rail won't be a conventional diesel-powered line in the future. It's going to be a line that has completely new generation, low-emission trains."   

The transport secretary went on to add that those concerns about the diesel-powered line were “missing the point,” and that the East West railway will be like a commuter line that deliver people to work in Oxford, Bletchey, and Milton Keynes.

Phase one between Oxford and Bicester has already been completed, with work on phase two planned to start, following the finalising of the enabling work by September 2019. It is expected that trains will begin running on the line by 2023.

Last month the government was reported to be exploring the possibility of implementing ETCS across the entirety of EWR in the future if analysis shows it can provide significant benefits for the programme.

Top image: Network Rail 


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