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Government officially launches East West Railway Company

Transport secretary Chris Grayling has officially launched the East West Railway (EWR) Company today, intended to restore the link between Oxford and Cambridge.

The Varsity line, which previously connected the two cities, was shut down nearly 50 years ago during the Beeching cuts, although it was not initially marked for closure.

The announcement of the official EWR company is a major step forward in plans for the new line, which will also create a direct link between East Anglia and central and southern England in the hopes of unlocking new areas for housing and economic growth.

EWR will have interchange stations with four main railway lines out of London, but it will run under or over each one in order to minimise the risk of delay and allow future upgrade work to be incorporated into the network with as little disruption as possible.

Rob Brighouse, interim chair of the new company and non-executive director at Network Rail, explained that the company had been set up to help deliver the project as quickly and cost effectively as possible.

The line was pushed by the East West Rail Consortium, a group of local authorities and strategic partners who helped to encourage the DfT to adopt the project and begin developing plans.

Speaking at the transport secretary’s visit to a number of sites yesterday, consortium representative councillor Ian Bates applauded the official launch of the company.

He commented: “We welcome the formal launch of the East West Railway Company and its real emphasis on accelerating delivery of the Oxford to Cambridge link in support of economic growth.

“The consortium has played a pivotal role getting us to this point, and we have pledged to continue working in partnership to ensure there are trains on tracks at the earliest opportunity.”

Growing the network

Grayling visited both Bletchley station and Bletchley Viaduct, which are due to be reopened as part of the EWR project.

“East West Rail is the perfect example of how we can revitalise the railways, grow the network and unlock jobs and housing growth,” the transport secretary stated.

“Bletchley Park – the home of World War II codebreakers – is the perfect location to mark the historic occasion, because the line will be key to the development of this corridor as a world-class centre for innovation, technology and high-skilled jobs.”

The government has said the East West link is a key strategic project in the UK, suggesting that linking the country’s two most prestigious universities could create a British ‘Silicon Valley’, when it is completed in the mid-2020s.

In RTM’s August/September edition this year, the EWR Alliance’s head of engineering, Andy Free, discussed the latest developments in the project, including the controversially scrapped electrification plans for the project.

The DfT removed the plans following public consultation on phase 2 of EWR, and Free said he thought it was unlikely electrification would be reintroduced.

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Graham   14/12/2017 at 16:07

DoT cost cutting again with cheap bi modes instead of doing the job right in the first place

ABB   14/12/2017 at 18:14

Except bi-modes aren't exactly cheap, are they.

Melvyn   14/12/2017 at 18:25

Many of the problems encountered by the HOPS electrification were caused by unknown cables and pipes along the GWR route . Given that the East to West railway will be more like a new railway with the route cleared ahead of construction I would have thought the HOPS system could be allowed to show itself in electrification of this route largely away from operational railways. I have noticed on old maps of this route that there used to be a link from Hitchin to Bedford it s a pity this Line can't also be reinstated giving a link from ECML to MML and maybe providing an initial route for East to West railway to access Anglian lines until a new route to replace the closed route can be built.

Martin   14/12/2017 at 21:49

"Bletchley Station and Bletchley Viaduct... are due to be reopened as part of the EWR project"? I wasn't aware that Bletchley station was closed.

Andrew Gwilt   15/12/2017 at 00:34

So when is the new stretch of railway line that will bypass Sandy could be built. Linking Cambridge and Bedford. With a new station upgrade at Sandy station to become a interchange between East-West Rail Line and the ECML “Great Northern” Line (Peterborough-London) with a brand new bridge for the new railway line to cross over the ECML in Sandy. Or a brand new station on the East West Rail Line that will serve Sandy and to become a out-of-station interchange that could be built near to the current Sandy railway station on the ECML that some GN trains stop at Sandy on the London-Peterborough route. Along with the new bridge to go over the ECML.

Malcolm   15/12/2017 at 11:59

Significant part of the announcement is to see Chiltern Railways former MD in charge. He is someone who has actually run a railway and made a new railway happen. Good news !

Mikeb   15/12/2017 at 20:29

@Melvyn. Don't hold your breath with regard to electrification. Grayling has more or less stated that Oxford - Cambridge will be a diesel commuter railway - at least for the time being.

Andrew JG   15/12/2017 at 23:04

Sandy station may get a new station upgrade when the East-West Rail central section is announced and construction will start after approval. With 2 new platforms being built and a new railway bridge for the new railway line to cross over the ECML and a spur line to connect onto the ECML from the EW Rail Line. It will also provide a much better, reliable railway that will connect from the East of England to the Cotswolds, The Midlands and the West of England.

Jeremy C Thorowgood   16/12/2017 at 18:12

If the regional economy is estimated to receive a £73m boost, why not spend a little extra on electrification - this will create a modern, environmentally friendly and quieter line.

Huguenot   16/12/2017 at 20:47

Don't bet on a spur between EWR and the ECML at Sandy. It may simply be an overbridge without any junction. The existing station at Sandy is close to the town centre. If that is closed in favour of a new joint station to the north there'll be an almighty local row. Also, it looks as though Bedford will not be served by EWR: the favourite option is for EWR to leave the Bletchley line somewhere near Stewartby, cross over the MML with a new station at Wixams or "Bedford South Parkway" and take a new alignment to Sandy from there. This means no direct trains from Bedford to Cambridge, which won't go down very well in Bedford. All in all, a bit of a mess.

Jerry Alderson   18/12/2017 at 18:32

RE: "Bletchley Station and Bletchley Viaduct... are due to be reopened as part of the EWR project"? Response: "I wasn't aware that Bletchley station was closed." Indeed, and neither is the Bletchley Viaduct. In fact there is a charter train going over it on 17 March, for anyone who is interested in such things.

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