EWR Response to Network Rail's Initial Industry Plan published 30 Sept 2011

EWR Consortium is not disappointed at the omission of East West Rail from Network Rail’s Initial Industry Plan published on 30th September 2011.

The recently published Initial Industry Plan (IIP) sets out the investment that Network Rail and Train Operators want to see delivered in Control Period 5 (2014/15 to 2019/20). A number of our stakeholders have expressed concerns that EWR is omitted from the IIP. 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, although the IIP is not entirely silent about East West Rail. The project 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.