East West Rail gets final go ahead and electrification

The Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt. Hon Justine Greening MP, today announced that the Western section of East West Rail (EWR) will be part of the government’s strategy for rail transport, confirming not only funding for the project but also for electrification of the Oxford to Bedford part of the route. EWR will provide an electric link between the electrified Great Western, West Coast and Midland main lines. This further investment in the project upgrades it to form a key part of the new ‘Electric Spine’ passenger and freight route between the South Coast, the East Midlands and Yorkshire.

EWR is a major project to promote economic growth by establishing a strategic railway that will ultimately connect East Anglia with Central, Southern and Western England. It will be England’s first major railway re-opening with much of the route existing as freight network or disused lines. The Western Section will link Aylesbury, Oxford and Reading with Bedford and Milton Keynes. The route is planned to be open by 2017.

The project will feature in the Department for Transports’ High Level Output Specification (HLOS) for Control Period 5. This document sets out the rail transport projects that the government will support.

Peter Hardy, Chairman of the East West Rail Consortium Joint Delivery Board said:

This is fantastic news for the towns and cities that East West Rail will serve. In providing direct links between growth areas, East West Rail will allow for more sustained economic development for these communities, creating up to 12,000 jobs and increasing opportunities for businesses to invest.

Today’s announcement follows the decision by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his November 2011 Autumn Statement that EWR funding of £270 million would be made available providing that the promoter of the scheme, the EWR Consortium, met two conditions. A strong business case for the route was required, and the case developed by the promoter along with the DfT and Network Rail was accepted as robust. The second condition was for a commitment by local authorities along the route to contribute to the cost; a ‘commitment in principle’ to contribute £50 million over a period of 15 to 20 years from 2014 onwards has been agreed by the western section members of the Consortium.

Rodney Rose, Deputy Chairman of the Joint Delivery Board said

The East West Rail Consortium is committed to engaging with communities at every stage of this process. We seek to ensure that residents are fully informed of progress and that we maintain transparency as the project develops.

Dr Ann Limb OBE DL, Chair of South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) said

This is great news for the SEMLEP area. The Board of SEMLEP have committed £1m of its Growing Places Fund resources to enable this project to progress to 2014/15 when construction will now start. Improving east west links across the SEMLEP area is vital to enable growth in jobs and homes.

The Consortium is now working with Department for Transport and Network Rail to implement the necessary development work to ensure the target re-opening of the western section of the east west line is met by 2017.