East West Rail can help economic development

The proposed East-West Rail Link connecting Oxford and Aylesbury with Milton Keynes and Bedford could generate more than £38 million a year for the UK economy, says a leading economic forecaster.

Oxford Economics, which has just published a report on the economic case for investment, says there is a strong business case for reinstating track and upgrading the line to enable an East-West rail service to carry passengers from Reading to Bedford via Oxford and Milton Keynes and from Milton Keynes into London Marylebone via Aylesbury and High Wycombe.

The report – East West Rail: The Economic Case for Investment – comes at a time when there are concerns about the low economic growth outlook for the UK, and has been welcomed by a Consortium of councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships supporting an east-west rail link.

Neil Gibson, Chairman of the East-West Rail Consortium, said: “Oxford Economics have confirmed what we have been saying to Ministers and Whitehall officials: that investment in East-West Rail is a great deal for the taxpayer, for business, the travelling public, and for supporting economic growth.”

In light of the current disappointing growth forecasts, the East-West Consortium believes the project is not only a significant and critical piece of transport infrastructure but has become an essential component of new infrastructure necessary to help kick-start growth in the economy in England.

Oxford Economics’ report expands on earlier work by the engineering and design consultancy, Atkins, which said that reinstating the railway between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford with a link to Aylesbury, represented a good business return of £6 for every £1 invested.

Further, Oxford Economics notes the East-West Rail project fits well against stated national policy objectives. “Specifically, the scheme will contribute strongly to numerous key goals of the UK’s National Infrastructure Plan, and will help the South East deliver its planned share of UK employment growth by making the Oxford-Bedford corridor more attractive for businesses and individuals to locate,” says the report.

Dr Martin Dare-Edwards, Chairman of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “East-West Rail makes superlative sense for supporting growth across this vital arc for the UK’s high-value-adding economy. It also provides an optimal solution for connecting people to jobs, and businesses to services customers and suppliers in a low carbon way. We welcome this report and look to Government to look favourably on this sound investment opportunity.”

The East-West Rail Consortium is seeking inclusion of the scheme on the Government’s 2014-19 railway investment programme (known as HLOS – High Level Output Specification) that is due to be decided and announced by July 2012.