Network Rail has published its national delivery plan for the next five years, confirming its commitment to deliver the infrastructure for East West Rail (Western Section) passenger services to operate between Bedford and Oxford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury.
The scheme has been promoted by the East West Rail Consortium, a group of local authorities and strategic partners in the region, to support regional economic and residential growth, boosting the regional GDP and creating thousands of new jobs.
The line will connect with the Great Western, West Coast and Midland Main Lines creating many new journey opportunities within the region and nationally, reducing journey times and avoiding the need to travel via London.
The Network Rail plan proposes delivery of East West Rail in two phases. Phase 1 will deliver the infrastructure required for Chiltern Railways services between Oxford and London via Bicester as well as the works required for the later introduction of East West Rail services west of Bicester.
Phase 2, which is at an earlier stage of development, will deliver the EWR works east of Bicester to Bletchley and Bedford, including the Aylesbury to Claydon Junction line within this five-year period ending March 2019.
Work involves upgrading the Bicester Town to Bletchley and Claydon Junction to Aylesbury freight line for passenger services; building a new station at Winslow; building new high level platforms at Bletchley Station and minor upgrades to the existing Bletchley to Bedford passenger railway.
On completion, the railway will be capable of accommodating the core train services proposed by the East West Consortium as follows:
– An hourly passenger service between Bedford and Oxford (which may continue to Didcot Parkway and Reading).
– An hourly passenger service between Milton Keynes and Oxford (which may continue to Didcot Parkway and Reading)
– An hourly passenger service between Milton Keynes and Aylesbury (which continue to Princes Risborough, High Wycombe and Marylebone)
It will also include additional capacity for a cross-country passenger service and additional freight trains.
The proposed services will be in addition to the existing hourly stopping service operating on the Bedford to Bletchley line.
In addition to the scheme proposed by the East West Rail Consortium, the Department for Transport (DfT) has identified the route as having potential to deliver further enhancements to the rail network capacity and flexibility. The route will form part of the proposed ‘Electric Spine’ to create an electrified strategic freight and passenger network between the South Coast and the East and West Midlands. In order to deliver these aspirations, expansion of the scope will be required.
Work to electrify the line between Oxford and Bletchley is to be delivered at the same time as East West Rail Phase 2 to minimise disruption. Electrification of the line between Bletchley and Bedford electrification will follow at a later date.
Cllr Janet Blake of Buckinghamshire County Council and chair of the East West Rail Joint Delivery Board for the Western Section said:
“Seeing the Western Section of East West Rail as a committed scheme in Network Rail’s delivery plan is another positive step towards the railway becoming a reality. Local authorities within the Consortium have committed to contribute some £45million towards this scheme and we have assurance that the core scheme proposed by the Consortium will be delivered. We will continue to work closely with Network Rail and the Department for Transport to oversee and support its successful delivery, to have services running at the earliest opportunity and to unlock the significant benefits the improved rail connections will bring to individuals, communities and businesses in our region.”
“The proposed enhancements to the scheme clearly present an even greater opportunity as East West Rail will form part of the national strategic rail network so we welcome the opportunity to be involved in helping to shape these plans.”
View Network Rail’s national plans here Delivering a better railway for a better Britain