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Thameslink director appointed as East West Rail’s first CEO

East West Rail has announced its first chief executive as Simon Blanchflower, the programme director for Thameslink.

Blanchflower will lead the East West Railway Company through its next phase of development, delivering a new railway line between Oxford and Cambridge.

He brings leadership experience from major infrastructure projects such as working on the early stage development of Crossrail, the delivery of the Heathrow Express, and most recently, directing the £7bn Thameslink project.

Chris Grayling welcomed the appointment and said: “Simon brings a wealth of experience to the role and I am confident his expertise and insight will play a huge role in bringing this vital project to fruition.”

East West Rail says it will “unlock the economic potential” of the corridor, supporting new jobs and reducing journey times and travel costs for passengers.

The transport secretary said: “East West Rail will transform journeys in one of Europe’s most vibrant economic regions, providing passengers and businesses with a transport system that boosts economic opportunity, bringing new housing and jobs.”

Blanchflower said: “I am very excited to take up my new role at East West Rail.

“It’s a fantastic project, with the opportunity to prove there is a better way to deliver the railway, as well as to support economic growth in such an important corridor for the country. I can’t wait to get started.”

The East West Railway Company is an arms-length body of the Department for Transport, which was set up by Grayling in 2017 and will assume full client duties for the project in 2019.

Cllr Mark Shaw, who is the chairman of the East West Rail Consortium, called it “very welcome news.”

He said: “Simon brings significant experience of delivering major rail infrastructure projects and his appointment will add further momentum behind getting trains on tracks at the earliest opportunity.

“The Consortium looks forward to working with him and the company’s board members to fully realise East West Rail’s potential.”

A public consultation on the route options for the new section of railway between Bedford and Cambridge will be launched by the company in the New Year.

Earlier this week Buckinghamshire County Council expressed a number of issues deemed “unacceptable” and “critical” relating to Network Rail’s application for a Transport and Works Act Order to build East West Rail Phase 2.

Image credit - Jeff Spicer/PA Archive/PA Images

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