The next major step in restoring rail links between Oxford and Cambridge was taken this week (27 July 2018) when Network Rail applied for legal permission to rebuild a railway across central England.
Network Rail plans to reopen a “mothballed” line west of Bletchley and to upgrade the existing Bedford-Bletchley line if its application for an order under the Transport and Works Act is given the go-ahead by the Government.
Phase 1 of the East West scheme was opened from Oxford to Bicester in 2016. Construction work on phase 2 should start next year although some preliminary work has already been carried out. Phase 3 from Bedford to Cambridge remains at the planning stage.
By the “early 2020s”, train services could start running from Oxford to Bedford, along with trains from Aylesbury to Milton Keynes.
Rail campaigners can support the TWA application by making representations to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling's Department before 7 September 2018.
"I would encourage people to give their views directly to the Department for Transport and leave them in no doubt about the public’s appetite for getting trains on tracks as soon as possible,” said Councillor Mark Shaw, chairman of the East West Rail consortium of councils which has campaigned for the reopening of the Varsity Line since 1995.
“East West Rail will drastically reduce journey times within the region, bringing key economic and cultural centres within easy reach of each other.
“After more than 20 years of campaigning, the submission of the TWA order is a hugely significant milestone, marking the final stage in acquiring permission to reopen the rail lines between Oxford and Bedford, and Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.” Network Rail says the project aims to create more jobs, more economic growth, and sustainable housing.
The proposed Oxford-Bedford service is expected to stop at Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow, Bletchley, Woburn Sands and Ridgmont. Existing local services are expected to continue on the Bedford-Bletchley line.
The proposed Milton Keynes to Aylesbury service will stop at Bletchley, Winslow and Aylesbury Vale Parkway.
Colin Murphy of Network Rail said: “This is the culmination of four years of work developing the scheme and follows three positive rounds of community consultation, where we have continually refined our proposal based on the views of the community and planning experts.”
Rob Brighouse, chairman at East West Railway Company, said: “This is very welcome and shows our shared commitment to move all elements of the project from planning to delivery as quickly as possible.”
Bedford Mayor Dave Hodgson, chair of the transport forum of England’s Economic Heartland, said: “The Government has made realising the huge economic potential of this region a national priority and East West Rail is fundamental to delivering this.
“We now need the route between Bedford and Cambridge to be confirmed as soon as possible.”
More information at:
Five key points for rail campaigners at:
You can email your support to: transportandworksact at dft.gov.uk and please consider sending a copy to the consortium at info at eastwestrail.org.uk
Letters can be sent to Transport and Works Act Orders Unit, Department for Transport, 1/14-18, Great Minster House, 33 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 4DR.
All submission documents are available at www.networkrail.co.uk/east-west-rail and paper copies can be viewed at Bedford, Bicester, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and Winslow. Details can be found at www.railfuture.org.uk/events