Progress Report: Meeting with Rail Minister and inclusion in HLOS

Following the completion of the GRIP 4 design and business case work in July 2010, the East West Rail Consortium is progressing with some refinement of the railway infrastructure design to reflect current strategic thinking emerging from the Department for Transport. Primarily this involves assessing the impact of introducing a twin track railway from Oxford to Bedford, as opposed to certain elements of the line remaining single track as shown in the GRIP 4 Outline Business Case.

This additional work is expected to be completed by December this year after which there will be a completed design and outline business case ready for submission to the Department for Transport’s High Level Output Specification(HLOS) programme for 2014-2019.

Following a meeting with the Rail Minister, the Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP, Iain Stewart MP, Mark Lancaster MP and Neil Gibson, Chairman of the East West Rail Consortium on 3 November, the Department has agreed that the East West Rail (Western section) should be assessed for inclusion in the next HLOS. This is extremely encouraging and provides added credibility for the scheme’s deliverability. It is a significant achievement for the Consortium.

The Consortium will shortly be pursuing a strategy of establishing joint working with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) with the intention of them submitting bids for Regional Growth Funding. The Oxfordshire and South East Midlands LEPs are already established. Contact with Thames Valley Berkshire LEP is planned, whilst the Thames Valley Buckinghamshire LEP is awaiting approval.

Now that the Consortium has approval to submit the project into HLOS, it is essential the Consortium makes more progress on private sector funding. To this end consideration is being given to holding a workshop with all relevant Local Planning Authorities with the objective of establishing common ground.

Chiltern Railways Evergreen 3

The East West Rail Consortium provided two witnesses (Neil Gibson, Chairman of the Consortium and Patrick O’Sullivan, Project Manager) on the first day of the public inquiry into Chiltern Railways’ application for a Transport and Works Act Order for their Evergreen 3 project on 2nd November.

The public inquiry is expected to continue throughout the rest of this year and into January 2011. A decision by the Secretary of State for Transport can be expected towards the third quarter of 2011. If this is favourable, it will reflect well on the East West Rail (Western section), as the Inspector will have been persuaded that there are grounds for the western section to be funded and delivered within the timeframe to 2017.