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Staffordshire Alliance partners to deliver East West Rail phase 2

An alliance between Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, VolkerRail and Network Rail – the same responsible for Staffordshire – has been chosen to build East West Rail Phase 2 (EWR2), with works on the outline design and construction programme ongoing.

Once this initial work is finished, the alliance will consult with the Department for Transport to agree on a final design, timetable and costs – at which point it will be able to give more precise dates for construction, according to Network Rail's route managing director, Martin Frobisher. It aims to submit an application for a Transport & Works Act Order in autumn next year.

The start of phase 2 of the project – linking Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford, and Milton Keynes with London Marylebone via Aylesbury – comes just over a month after Chiltern Railways kicked off services on its new Oxford-London services.

Andy Milne, Network Rail’s senior programme manager and alliance manager, said: “Never before on a rail project of this size has an alliance been convened this early. By scoping all aspects of the project now, we will see potential problems early and be able to mitigate them.

“The alliance is a completely integrated team where all parties share in the benefits and risks. This will help drive down costs, reduce risks and lead to the more efficient and timely delivery of the project.”

Plans for this phase include a new station at Winslow, two new platforms at Bletchley, 18 new overbridges, 22 new footbridges and changes to 97 railway crossings.

Graeme Castle, rail sector leader for Laing O’Rourke, said on behalf of all the EWR2 partners that the alliance aims to build on the success of the Staffordshire Alliance.

“Our early involvement in the EWR2 project will guarantee an efficient and constructible design that is at the forefront of innovation built on digital engineering and offsite manufacture,” he added.

Network Rail launched a consultation into this phase in September, which included plans to upgrade and reconstruct existing and mothballed sections of track lining Bedford to Bicester and Milton Keynes to Princes Risborough.

At the time, Chiltern was already concerned about the “additional pressure on the timescales” for phase 2 created by the slippage in the GRIP 3 milestones for the project from November 2015 to August 2016, which were nevertheless approved by the ORR.

Later, in November, local authorities in the East West Rail consortium claimed that the Western Section of the project – part of phase 2 – could be delayed by three to seven years. The new route between Oxford and Bedford would 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.

In his review of the CP5 enhancements portfolio, Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy confirmed that phase 2 of the project would only be completed in CP6. But the report said that there would be “significant delivery” in the current control period: subject to design work, he said, delivery would start as soon as possible.

Sir Peter also found that a number of assumptions – made to allow projects to proceed even in face of significant uncertainties – would impact the project’s delivery of rolling stock, planning consents and electrification.

He also cited EWR2 as a notable example of a project whose requirements and scope was still emerging and in early development stages, meaning it could still face significant challenges.

Cllr Rodney Rose, deputy leader of Oxfordshire County Council and chair of the joint delivery board for East West Rail, said the group met with Sir Peter to discuss the "vital importance" of the rail link to improve regional connectivity, economic growth and planned housing developments.

“We understand the challenges ahead,” he added. “Our joint delivery approach means that we are using the combined expertise of Network Rail and the local authorities within the East West Rail Consortium to accelerate the delivery process.”


Huguenot   04/12/2015 at 17:23

This is really good news for those of us who have been waiting years for this re-opening. I hope that the promise of “significant delivery” in CP5 means that, for Bicester-Bletchley-Milton Keynes at least, we can get something running well before 2022. It's less that 20 miles, for goodness' sake, with the formation still in tact (albeit needing work to bring it up to standard). Electrification can wait, although it probably makes sense to do the necessary civils (mast bases etc) at the outset.

Jb   04/12/2015 at 18:23

Splendid news! I hope the connection to Cambridge will follow on. I just wish we could see the re-opening of the Oxford - Princes Risborough line, putting Wheatley and Thame back on the railway map and a possible Park and Ride stop where it crosses the M40. Re-openings like these make far more sense than building HS2 with its horrendous disruption and cost implications. The railways should be accessible to as many people as possible and I believe many more re-openings would be possible for much less than the cost of HS2.

Andrew Gwilt   04/12/2015 at 23:01

Will the new railway line be able to go Cambridge as the next phase of the East-West Rail Link. I think it might happen.

Huguenot   06/12/2015 at 12:41

The railway via Thame won't happen now that we have Princes Risborough to Oxford via Bicester. As for Bedford-Cambridge (the so-called East-West Rail "Central Section"), I believe that this will be constructed eventually -- NR is already looking at corridor options with a shortlist of two: via Sandy or via Hitchin. However, the need to avoid reversal shouldn't mean that Bedford Midland is bypassed, otherwise interchange opportunnities with the MML and Thameslink will be lost. I'm not sure why the option of a corridor via the growing town of St Neots has been dismissed. If the EWR project is delayed too long, Highways England will have built the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway and all the traffic will go by road.

Jerry Alderson   11/12/2015 at 13:31

Hugenot wrote "I'm not sure why the option of a corridor via the growing town of St Neots has been dismissed." I don't think it has been dismissed. The Consortium is looking at two "broad corridors" and they are indeed wide. The northern corridor (Sandy) could be Bedford - St Neots - Cambourne - Cambridge. As well as serving population centres, an advantage of this route would be a junction to the ECML offering faster Cambridge to Peterborough journeys via St Neots (subject to capacity on the ECML, of course). See:

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