An Oxfordshire councillor has been elected in to a role that will mean he oversees one of the most important rail developments Oxfordshire and its neighbouring counties have seen in decades as it unfolds in coming months and years.
Councillor Rodney Rose, the deputy leader of Oxfordshire County Council has been elected as the Chairman of the Joint Delivery Board for the Western Section of East West Rail, a project that is seeing the upgrading and reconstruction of underused and disused sections of the former railway between Bedford, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury, Bicester and Oxford.
Ultimately it is hoped that the scheme will be extended as far as Cambridge – linking England’s two famous university cities once more and improving rail services between East Anglia and central and southern England.
Phase One of the scheme is already under way – with work ongoing to facilitate Chiltern Railways’ Evergreen 3 project, connecting Oxford to London Marylebone via Bicester and Aylesbury which will also deliver the infrastructure for East West Rail services.
Network Rail is committed to having the railway reopened by early 2019. This work will involve the upgrading of existing lines (including those beyond Bicester that are currently used for freight trains only) and reinstating the railway on former track bed as far as Bletchley. The line is also be electrified between Oxford and Bedford.
An advocate and enthusiast for East West Rail
Councillor Rose said: “I have been a longstanding advocate and enthusiast for this project. It is a pleasure to see it taking shape and being given national funding. I personally look forward a great deal to coming years when East-West rail comes in to operation.
“You have to remember that it is many years since any new rail developments occurred in Oxfordshire or in our neighbouring areas. The trend throughout the country, until relatively recent years, has been for railway lines to close rather than open.
“I had already been working as Deputy Chairman for the Joint Delivery Board, which is made up of local authority members in the geographical areas that will benefit from this project, working alongside Network Rail and the Department of Transport. I am therefore very familiar with the detail of the scheme and the people who will see that it is delivered. We’re all committed to a lot of hard work to get this project completed.
“As an Oxfordshire councillor I obviously have a focus on my home area – but I will also work in harness with people from other areas to see that everybody reaps the benefits of this exciting work.”