The project board, chaired by Neil Gibson Strategic Director for Communities and Built Environment at Buckinghamshire CC, convened for one of its regular quarterly meetings in Aylesbury on 10 October. All local authorities along the western section of the route are represented on the board as well as officials from Department for Transport (DfT) and Network Rail. A number of important issues and progress reports were discussed including an update on the High Level Output Specification process. The Consortium is working with officials from the DfT to ensure EWR is identified within the Department’s next spending programme in Control Period 5 (2014/15 to 2018/19).
At the suggestion of DfT a prospectus had been prepared with the objective of being submitted to DT to sit alongside the Initial Industry Plan (IIP) that has recently been published. The prospectus itself is designed to be a ‘catch all’ type of document with the contents aimed at providing essential information about EWR to supporters and stakeholders as well as those organisations and people who may not have a great knowledge about EWR. The primary objective of the prospectus is to present EWR as a mechanism for growth rather than solely a railway project. The prospectus will be published in early November and will be available on the EWR website.
The board were briefed on an article that had recently appeared in Local Transport Today (Issue 581) which suggested that the project had been “dealt a blow” by being omitted in Network Rail’s Initial Industry Plan (IIP). The IIP sets out the rail industry’s plan for investment for CP5. It was agreed that the project manager should write to LTT and correct this inaccurate interpretation. A copy of that letter is shown below.
EAST WEST RAIL
We are delighted to be able to tell you that the East West Rail Consortium was not dealt a blow by the omission of the project in the IIP. As you rightly point out the plan sets out the investment that Network Rail and Train Operators want to see delivered in CP5 and as East West Rail is not being promoted by either Network Rail or a TOC, we did not and would not expect it to be included in their IIP.
Having said that, the IIP is not entirely silent about East West Rail. As you allude to in your article it is mentioned within the supporting documentation for the IIP. It is stated under the heading of the Southampton to West Coast main line capacity enhancements there is possible use of the East / West (Oxford / Bletchley) link to be used as a capacity/diversionary opportunity between Oxford – Leamington; and under the heading of Oxford corridor capacity improvements …….. a double junction at Oxford North to facilitate increased capacity of connection to the Bicester line (subject to the progression of East West railway).
The Consortium is about to publish its own Initial Industry Plan (a Prospectus) and a formal publication launch is planned for early November. The case for East West Rail will be given further prominence on 23 November when Iain Stewart MP (Milton Keynes South) and the Consortium, will jointly host an event in Westminster at which his newly established East West Rail All Party Parliamentary Group will meet with local business leaders who are keen to see East West Rail delivered as part of the push for economic growth.
More importantly however, the East West Rail (EWR) Consortium has an undertaking from the rail minister that the project is a candidate scheme for CP5. As such the Consortium enjoys the same positioning in terms of projects being evaluated for CP5 as Network Rail. Indeed East West Rail could be considered to be in a stronger position, in terms of benefit cost ratio, in comparison with schemes in the IIP. East West Rail has a benefit cost ratio of 6.3:1 and if the additional investment anticipated from the private sector of up to 15% of the capital cost is forthcoming, the BCR increases to over 11:1. Within the IIP it is recorded that “The IIP offers value for money investments to deliver improvements in the key outcomes for funders and users. The schemes proposed to deliver these better outcomes have an overall benefit cost ratio of 4.5:1.” Together with an independent review of the business case by a leading economic forecaster – Oxford Economics, which noted that East West Rail could contribute over £38m to Gross Domestic Product a year, the case for East West Rail is well developed and compares very favourably to those schemes set out in the IIP.
The Consortium is therefore looking forward to continue working with Department for Transport officials, as agreed by ministers, with a view to securing the project in the CP5 investment programme
Project Manager – East West Rail Consortium
The board received a report on work that was commissioned in July this year which set out to examine precisely how the project may be authorised in the context of the planning process. Under the Planning Act 2008 all new mainline railways are Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) and require a Development Consent Order (DCO) unless they are Permitted Development (PD). If they are PD, they can be implemented either using PD rights or by a TWA Order. Therefore in order to establish if a DCO is needed, it is necessary to establish if they are PD. The outcome of the research undertaken thus far that we have found all the necessary legislation that could demonstrate that the majority of the works proposed are permitted development. At the same time there are clearly identified aspects that will not be permitted development.
The final report on permitted development is expected early in the New Year at which time the Consortium will be in possession of a definitive way forward on how the project can be authorised and implemented. Included in the final report will be an agreed and detailed programme that is anticipated to show that if the authorisation process can be delivered without the need to apply for a DCO, the project can be authorised at considerably less cost than originally anticipated. This may have useful lessons for other railway re-opening projects in England and Wales.
The board received an update on the work programme funded by DCLG’s transition funding to undertake an evaluation of the timing and location of future developments across the area including identifying the necessary infrastructure requirements and considering approaches to funding. One strand of the work is focussed on the East West Rail project identifying the potential contributions to delivering the project from various sources of funding, including the New Homes Bonus and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).
All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)
The formation of an All Party Parliamentary Group is progressing extremely well at Westminster. Plans are well advanced for a reception being jointly hosted by Iain Stewart MP (Milton Keynes South) and the Consortium. A successful outcome of the event will be to strengthen the APPG’s convictions that EWR is a vital scheme necessary for growth. This will be achieved by ensuring the event is supported and strongly represented by key private sector companies at the event. The event is taking pace on 23 November at the Palace of Westminster and a full report of the event will be published in our next news letter.
The Project Board welcomed the progress made in improving the structure, refreshing the content, and making it easier to navigate around the EWR web site.
The video has proved to be a popular feature with the number of hits at over 1350 and rising. The new “Your Views” page has attracted numerous comments of support and positive interest in East West Rail.
We are very interested to hear what you think about EWR and to get feedback on how the web site could be improved further at https://eastwestrail.org.uk/contact/