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Electrification ‘very unlikely’ to come back into EWR scheme

Plans to electrify the East West Rail (EWR) link between Oxford and Cambridge are “very unlikely” to come back into the scheme after the DfT instructed Network Rail to remove electrification from the scope of the Western Section, RTM has been told.

The DfT directive was included in the public consultation documents released in June for Phase 2 of the Western Section. It is also in line with the department’s scrapping of major electrification programmes in the north of England announced last month.

Asked what impact this will have on the project, Andy Free, head of engineering assurance at EWR Alliance, which is delivering Phase 2 of the Western Section, argued that “on the face of it, not a lot”.

“But actually, that was one of the big drivers behind our slippage to date for submitting our TWA application, because we had done the initial modelling for the environmental impact assessment based on some of the trains being electric. We have had to redo all of that modelling to provide an accurate model once the railway is an all-diesel railway,” he said.

“It wasn’t as simple as just, ‘don’t bother putting the electrification up – how much is the saving please?’ At this stage, it has cost money to do that, remove the electrification, to redo significant parts of the environmental impact assessment.”

The steer from the DfT is that wherever the Alliance is building a new structure it needs to be clear and suitable for electrification, “and we must do nothing that hinders future electrification, but it is not on the short- or medium-term horizon”.

“It is very unlikely that electrification will come back into the scheme,” added Free.

Before the EWR Alliance – VolkerRail, Atkins, Laing O’Rourke and Network Rail – submit the TWA application in spring next year, the latest feedback for the plans, which has been generally supportive, will be fed into the designs where possible and in the environmental impact assessment.

It is anticipated that the project will be open by 2023, but as it stands work is due to start on the route in September 2019 – 18 months after the TWA application is submitted, which would push the project close to the end of CP6. In order to overcome this, and get the team on site earlier, the EWR Alliance will also be submitting a number of local planning applications to construct new overbridges at the same time as the TWA.

The Western Section consists of two distinct phases of work. EWR Phase 1 was completed in December 2016 and involved the upgrade of the Oxford-to-Bicester Line, and a new section of track that directly links to the Chiltern Main Line allowing new direct services from Oxford to London Marylebone.

EWR Phase 2 includes upgrading and reinstating the Bicester-Bletchley-Bedford, and Aylesbury-Claydon junction railway lines. There will also be a new station at Winslow, new platforms at Aylesbury Vale Parkway and Bletchley stations, and platform extensions at Woburn Sands, Ridgmont and Princess Risborough.

The operation of the line and delivery schedule for the Central and Eastern sections of EWR is currently the subject of a scoping report. While Free wasn’t in a position to comment in detail on this, he told RTM: “The current plan is that they have chosen a preferred corridor for the central section and they are working at their plans to start consultation on what the alignment of that might look like. They plan to go public with them in 2018.”

A full interview with Free will be featured in the Aug/Sept edition of RTM – subscribe to receive your free copy here.

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Tothehills   25/08/2017 at 09:19

I really do not see the point of rebuilding this railway. There are far better ways of spending this money which will have a far greater benefit to Britain, e.g. HS3, Greater Bristol Metro, Valleys metro, etc. But no we have to spend a vast amount of money because 4 people do not like driving from Bletchley to Bedford!

Andrew Gwilt   25/08/2017 at 09:31

Well in that case. Then DMU trains could be used on the East-West Rail Line. Such as Class 158, Class 159, Class 170, Class 172, Class 180, Class 220, Class 221, Class 222 and possibly Class 230 that could be used & operated on the EWR Line if electrification has been postponed.

J, Leicester   25/08/2017 at 10:37

Ah, the farce continues.

Joebloggs   25/08/2017 at 10:40

@ Tothenhills. It is massively beneficial. There will be a cross-country link, which means people won't have to travel into London and back out again. And connecting Oxford and Cambridge will be of huge benefit to the two technology and research industries based in the two cities. More then 4 people live in this region of the country! I am very sad that electrification will be scrapped, but it is not surprising given the problems on Great Western at the moment.

SM   25/08/2017 at 12:07

This is yet another example of the vast waste of public money because policy-makers can't get their act together before initiating plans for a project. e.g. the Garden Bridge, Northern Poorhouse electrification etc... Perhaps these people should have to hold qualifications in Project Management before they are allowed to have these ideas? Who do they think pays for all this?

Mark Hare   25/08/2017 at 13:08

@tothehills - last time I looked there was a rail link between Bletchley and Bedford? This scheme is hugely beneficial not only to the Oxon/Bucks/Beds region but also as, unsurprisingly, an East-West rail link saving passengers time and money by not having to travel into London and also by providing an alternative freight route for cross-country traffic, potentially taking freight off the North London line. The sooner this link opens the better, regardless of electrification or not.

Nonsuchmike   25/08/2017 at 13:11

I'm not hedging my bets when I say this link is vital to passengers and freight alike, but maybe not THE most urgent of lines. Those two are: Dualling the Felixstowe to Ipswich line and dualling the whole Henbury loop so that imports/exports as well as local work people can move about that area without clogging up the suburbs of Bristol. This line should probably equate to re-opening the Colne to Skipton route transpennine, which would take so much pressure off other routes, and provide a viable alternative should accident strike any of the more southern transpennine routes. A word for midland and northern brethren who think all this money channelled to the south is unwarranted. Please come and spend a week in September travelling in to London from almost any of the 50 odd routes into the capital - and back out again after a day's work, and you will begin to understand why we have 10 carriage trains and they are still packed to the sardine filled brim. Having said that, I am in full sympathy with you and am appalled by the one and two carriage trains that TOCs have the audacity to think are adequate for your train journeys, especially across country.

King's Lynn   25/08/2017 at 13:30

+1 the comment above (nonsuchmike)

Andrew Scotchton   25/08/2017 at 16:36

Still can't understand why, having decided to choose the Bedford-Sandy-Cambridge route over Luton-Stevenage-Cambridge (which I am in favour of), these works do not include a Millbrook-Ampthill chord & siding south of Luton Airport Parkway, to allow a train an hour to run from Luton Airport Parkway to EWR, either Oxford or Milton Keynes via a Bletchley reversal. Big opportunity currently being missed at the expense, yet again, of Luton Town, and the country's fifth largest airport.

Steve Ryszka   30/08/2017 at 11:26

Nonsuchmike I HAVE travelled on EVERY line into London (and at rush hours). Yes you do have a case for 10 coach trains but that try spending a week travelling around Yorkshire. London bound journeys tend to fill up more as the trains near London and vice versa. Trains from Sheffield to Leeds and Manchester (and vice versa) fill up at these stations so the trains are full for about an hour, and even more passengers try and squeeze on at intermediate stations. There is no relief. The fairly quiet Cumbrian coast has a Class 37+4 carriages! Yet we struggle with one and two carriage DMUs! BTW I travel frequently throughout the network and I have travelled on EVERY passenger line (and many of the freight lines).

Rhydgaled   30/08/2017 at 12:37

They really should electrify the Bicester-Bletchley route now while it isn't in use as they will have full 24 hour access without having to worry about fitting the work into overnight/weekend posessions. They should also electrify the line down to Aylesbury so that the Milton Keynes - Aylesbury service can be electric, then electrify to Oxford (and through from there to Didcot) when the station there is reconfigured. Electrification of the Bedford-Bletchley section can be delayed for now; the Midland Main Line electrification needs to be got back up and running first.

Jerry Alderson   30/08/2017 at 19:32

Re: "They really should electrify the Bicester-Bletchley route now while it isn't in use as they will have full 24 hour access without having to worry about fitting the work into overnight/weekend possessions." I would certainly suggest putting in the bases for the overhead stanchions as part of the reopening. It is fairly cheap to do on a virgin route as there is no risk of cutting through signalling cables etc. Planting the bases is one of the slowest parts of electrifying an operational route. Obviously they will be making sure that there are clearances for overhead wires and that the signalling is immunised.

Andrew JG   31/08/2017 at 01:24

Class 170's Turbostars or Class 158/159 DMU's could be used on the East-West Rail Line as the electrification is not planned for the railway line that will connect Cambridge and Oxford. As Bombardier have manufactured the Class 170's that are capable for 90/100mph. And the new line could be 100mph.

Martin N   01/09/2017 at 10:06

It beggars belief that consideration now has to be given on constructing a new section of railway solely for the operation of noisy, polluting diesels that are hazardous to health, wellbeing and the environment, how stupid is this? If this is the only option then the scheme should be abandoned in its entirety.

Peter Jarvis   17/09/2017 at 22:01

The Oxford-Cambridge line should never have been shut – it was a late effort of the Railway Closures Department. The Cambridge to Bedford section presents problems, Bedford – Bletchley [in Milton Keynes] never shut; Bletchley to Oxford (and perhaps Aylesbury) should have reopened years ago. Milton Keynes is a town of 200,000 people and increases in size. Nowadays we have notices on the main road from Milton Keynes to Oxford such as '141 casualties from here [Milton Keynes] to Finmere [Oxfordshire border] since last July.' Capitalise the cost of the road accidents and the railway could have been kept running. The diesel fumes from reopening the railway cannot be as bad as those from the present road traffic. Yet nothing has been done for upwards of twenty years.

Paul K   20/09/2017 at 18:06

The Oxford to Bletchley section was to have been electrified as part of the strategic electric freight spine. This line will also connect into an HS2 construction base. The Government should really reconsider the electrification of this section.

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