East West Rail AGM and Project Update

The Consortium held its annual general meeting in Milton Keynes in January, chaired by Neil Gibson Strategic Director, Bucks CC. Guest speaker was Iain Stewart MP for Milton Keynes South who presented a very interesting insight into the workings of the All Party Parliamentary Group that he has established in support of East West Rail. Iain explained that he is very proud of the fact that the EWR APPG must hold the record for achieving its objective in record time. The APPG met for the first time in October 2011, held an evening reception co-hosted with the Consortium on 23 November 2011 in Westminster and then 4 days later the Chancellor announced that East West Rail will be in the National Infrastructure Plan, ensuring its inclusion in the Government’s rail investment programme for 2014 to 2019.

Iain Stewart MP (seated facing) at the EWR AGM meeting in Milton Keynes

During the meeting Iain listened in particular to the Consortium’s plans for further development of the Central Section. With plans for the western section so far advanced, the opportunity to start making much better progress on the route east of Bedford to Cambridge is recognised not only by the Consortium but more importantly by Iain’s fellow parliamentarians on the APPG who are very focused on realising the plans for complete re-opening of the East West Rail Line to Cambridge and beyond. Work will start soon on identifying a more definitive route alignment and the preparation of an appropriate business case for linking Bedford to Cambridge with a new railway line.

Following the AGM, a meeting of the EWR Western Section Project Board also chaired by Neil Gibson was held. The Board discussed amongst other things plans for the establishment of a joint Delivery Board which will oversee the implementation of the western section. Members of the Delivery Board will be drawn from elected members of the local authorities within the footprint of the railway as well as officials from the Department for Transport and Network Rail. The existing Project Board will become an Executive Board responsible for implementing the objectives of the new Delivery Board. The establishment of these new boards is intended to reflect the desire of all concerned that the project be delivered as a partnership consisting of Department for Transport,
Network Rail and the Consortium.

The meeting agreed that the outlook was optimistic and confidence was expressed that with the two conditions of a satisfactory business case and an agreement regarding local contributions being met, by July of this year, the Secretary of State would be able to confirm East West Rail within the High Level Output Specification for CP5 (April 2014 to March 2019).