Electric East West Rail: boost to economy, jobs and travel

Electric East West Rail: boost to economy, jobs and travel – East West Rail

Electrification of East West Rail (EWR) will boost the economy, open up job opportunities, and provide wider travel choices for the region, says the Consortium that has sponsored the proposal for a rail link from Oxford to Bedford.

EWR Consortium members, buoyed by Transport Secretary Justine Greening’s go-ahead for funding for the project last week (July 16), have been taking an early look at integrating electrification into their plans.

The railway line, originally envisaged as a £270 million diesel-powered link between Oxford and Aylesbury, and Milton Keynes and Bedford, takes on a more strategic role with electric power, and most of the estimated £400m investment will come from the Government.

Electrification, says the EWR Project Delivery Board – representing Consortium members, Network Rail and the Department for Transport – puts the line firmly on the national railway map as part of the Government’s proposed electric spine linking existing national radial routes.

Chairman Peter Hardy said that stepping up a gear from a local rail link would boost opportunities for economic growth, providing short-term construction jobs, giving existing businesses improved access to employees and customers, and attracting new firms.

He expects the benefits to exceed Oxford Economics’ 2011 estimate that EWR could generate more than £38m a year for the economy.

‘The railway also opens up more inter-county job opportunities, for example giving people from Oxford and Bicester public transport access they didn’t have before to jobs in Milton Keynes’, said Mr Hardy.

And, he said, the project heralds the prospect of wider travel choices for residents in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Milton Keynes and Bedfordshire.

‘East West Rail gets rid of the cul-de-sac railways of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire – where you can’t get any further north than Aylesbury or go east from Bicester,’ said Mr Hardy.

‘What’s more, add the rail link to Heathrow from the west, proposed by 2021 and access to one of the world’s busiest airports will be much easier,’ he said. ‘Now this has to be good for our residents, great for the local economy and much more attractive to businesses.’

Rodney Rose, Deputy Chairman of the Board, said a major community benefit from a largely electric railway focused on quieter and cleaner trains.

‘While there will be some diesel passenger trains from Aylesbury, most trains will be electric: quieter, cleaner and better for the environment,’ said Mr Rose. ‘Generally, train operators prefer electric trains; they’re more efficient, wear and tear is less, and they’re cheaper to maintain and operate.’

To get to this stage EWR has been promoted by a consortium of local authorities along the Oxford to Bedford corridor, and the project is being taken forward in partnership with Network Rail and the Department for Transport.

‘This is leading edge partnership working,’ said Peter Hardy. ‘A grass-roots sponsored project hasn’t been done on this kind of scale before.’

Tasks for the Project Delivery Board in the autumn are to agree specific areas of responsibility for each member of the tripartite group, ahead of commissioning an environmental impact assessment and starting work on preliminary designs.

The target opening of the line is 2017.