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Residents invited to give views on East West Rail link plans

Passengers have been invited to give their views on plans for a new rail link connecting Milton Keynes, Winslow and Bedford.

The project, East West Rail, is also planned to eventually connect Oxford with Cambridge, creating a ‘corridor’ running across the south of England.

It is hoped that the new line could open up routes for regional and cross-country travel, whilst also reducing the need for passengers to go into London to make onward connections.

The plans are being supported by the East West Rail Consortium, an alliance of councils including Oxfordshire County Council.

The project was originally due to be finished in 2017, but was delayed until 2019 and then pushed back to CP6 following the Hendy Review. However, a new East West Rail organisation, announced by the transport secretary Chris Grayling late last year, will oversee the construction and operation of the new Cambridge - Oxford railway line, making it the first truly integrated rail operation since the 1990s.

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,” said councillor Yvonne Constance, cabinet member for Environment at Oxfordshire County Council, whose portfolio also includes strategic rail.

“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.” 

Cllr Constance added that the new route would be instrumental in reducing congestion on Oxfordshire’s roads, in particular on 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,” she added.

“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.”

And councillor Mark Shaw, chairman of the Joint Delivery Board for the Western Section, also stated: “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.”

Cllr Shaw stated that he understood how people living close to the route may have questions about how East West Rail could affect them, which is why it was essential for them to respond to the consultation.

“Residents can also submit their views to Network Rail’s consultation, so please, make your voice heard.”

Passengers can respond to the consultation here and to read more about the East West Rail Consortium click here.  

Top Image: East West Rail Consortium

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Huguenot   11/07/2017 at 10:57

So, if "it is an essential piece of infrastructure which will unlock the region’s huge economic potential", why is it taking so long? The Bicester-Bletchley trackbed is still in place, so it's not like opening up a completely new route. If this section were accelerated, Aylesbury-Calvert could follow on later. Also, it is rumoured that the Central Section will bypass Bedford. How crazy is that?

Malcolm Dymott   11/07/2017 at 12:38

Unfortunately it's not just a "clear the weeds and re-open the railway" job. A glance out of the window between Bicester and Oxford on the newly upgraded line reveals that all the accommodation crossings have been replaced with bridges, footpaths with footbridges and more than a little work on the earth structures. Re-opening Calvert to Bletchley will need some real civil engineering with real impacts on local residents. Unfortunately all will have real costs, to add to those for track, trains, stations and signals. Perhaps not surprising that very little has happened on the ground yet. Even if you find some funding, finding the project mangers to translate plans into a functioning railway won't be easy. It all looks so simple, until you start to try to do it . . . just look at the apparently easy 'Croxley Link' . . . the route is now fenced and cleared of vegetation. Getting the sums right and funding to add the railway is proving rather more difficult, even with a County and Town Council who really wants to finish the work.

Mark Hare   11/07/2017 at 12:42

The first line of this article is rather misleading - the next phase of East West Rail is not 'connecting Milton Keynes, Winslow and Bedford' but rather Bicester, Aylesbury, Winslow and Bletchley. @Huguenot - the line is still in use from Bicester to the current limit of NR operations at Claydon LNE Jn with the trackbed still in situ albeit in very poor condition from here to Bletchley. As I understand it major earthworks are required to bring the trackbed up to high speed main line standard with only minor work such as vegetation clearance having been carried out so far. However with the Transport and Works Act order in place since April I see no reason why work on the line between Claydon and Bletchley shouldn't now begin in earnest.

Brian   11/07/2017 at 13:04

Re - Croxley Link I believe the county and local councils now do not have any involvement as it is the full responsibility of TFL.

Andrew Gwilt   11/07/2017 at 22:24

Via Sandy is a better option because Sandy is midway between Cambridge and Bedford. And it could be a better option to build the East West rail line with Sandy having a 2nd station as the current Sandy station is on the East Coast Main Line with Great Northern providing the Great Northern route between London Kings Cross and Peterborough. Whilst via Hitchin is a lot more difficult and the new flyover has taken parts of the former Bedford line since the flyover was opened in 2013 which has improved the bottleneck and Great Northern King's Linn & Cambridge trains from London Kings Cross do use the flyover. Hope that the East West Rail Link does reopen and will provide a better railway link between the East of England and the West of England and Cotswolds.

Chrism   12/07/2017 at 03:39

Truth be told this old railway formation isn't quite right for the 21st century. Ideally it would go through Milton Keynes heading north and Bedford going south. How very thoughtless of the Victorians not to anticipate Milton Keynes! But what a strange world of crazy we live in where this moribund link through almost empty Buckinghamshire countryside is so important, yet we can't even manage to electrify the existing bust MML and TPE routes. I predict the opening date will keep going backwards. I travelled on the last ever charter train in 1993 over this route, 'The Mothball'. Will I live long enough to repeat that trip?

Chrism   12/07/2017 at 03:43

Sorry, should say the existing busy MML and TPE routes. The only thing bust is the NR budget!

Mark Hare   12/07/2017 at 14:46

@Andrew Gwilt - via Sandy has already been identified as the preferred route, with one main reason being that it will connect with the ECML so why would it be better to build another station at Sandy which wouldn't make that connection?

Temuco   13/07/2017 at 16:26

Chrism - yes, it should go into a tunnel West of Milton Keynes, loop north to new interchange platforms under MKC station, continue east to a new genuinely central MK station under the city centre, then curve back round to join the BBM line near Bow Brickhill. MK Crossrail! Expensive but it gets you out of all sorts of problems at Bletchley and also gives a real benefit to MK. Bit like the Merseyrail underground. If MK are serious about growth this could be a huge enabler.

Trevor Mumby   15/07/2017 at 10:35

Re Sandy The old,still visible, east/west route passes north of Sandy whereas the ECML station is south of Sandy. Laying new track to the South would appear to be the most expensive option. A new station to the north looks the best one. No doubt I will be corrected.

Andrew JG   16/07/2017 at 09:50

Sandy is halfway (midway) between Cambridge and Bedford. Sandy is about 20 miles from Cambridge and about 15 miles from Bedford. So the East-West Rail Line that will divert north of Sandy is a better option as it's the preferred route of the East-West Rail Link (Varsity Line). Plus a new station could also be planned to be built in Sandy as Sandy has one station on the ECML that Great Northern trains stops & serves Sandy on the London KX-Peterborough route.

Andrew Gwilt   16/07/2017 at 09:53

@Mark Hare. I understand that. For goodness sake.

DAVID FIELD   04/11/2017 at 22:12

Is there a (rough) figure for the costing of completion for the rail link over the whole of the route Oxford to Cambridge ? Currently there is a £3+ billion costing to build the Oxford to Cambridge (road) expressway which would mean far more misery, for far more people than the reinstatement of the rail link.

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