Economic benefit of East West Rail could boost annual GDP by £73 million

An assessment of the economic impact of the Western Section of East West Rail by Arup, an independent engineering and consultancy firm, shows that the scheme could boost the regional economy by £72.7 million per annum. This is almost double the £38 million previously forecast by Oxford Economics in 2010.

The significant increase is attributed to greater investment in the scheme (including electrification and other track improvements) and the benefits of the proposed service patterns and destinations served.

Arup identified that the East West Rail line, which will connect Aylesbury and Oxford with Milton Keynes and Bedford by March 2019, will substantially improve rail connections for business and leisure travel.  When the line is completed 41 out 65 UK cities will be accessible by rail from stations on the East West Rail line, with no more than one change.

rose_rodney1-200x280Cllr Rodney Rose of Oxfordshire County Council and Chair of the East West Rail (Western Section) Joint Delivery Board said:

“We have always known that East West Rail will bring substantial benefits to our region. These findings serve to reinforce the extraordinary case for investment in the railway and show just how important it is to our region. Consortium members are contributing £45m to the scheme which represents serious value for money when you consider the benefits.”

The East West Rail scheme was developed and promoted by a Consortium of local authorities between East Anglia and Oxfordshire aiming to improve transport links within the region and connections to the rest of the UK. The scheme for the Western Section received Government support in 2011 and was confirmed as a priority scheme to be delivered in the Department for Transport’s five-year spending period 2014 to 2019. Since then further enhancements to the line have been identified to accommodate anticipated future demand for additional passenger and freight services.

Electrification of the line between Oxford and Bedford will enable cleaner, quieter and more efficient trains to operate, and the railway will become an integral part of the national ‘Electric Spine’ from Southampton on the south coast to the midlands and intermodal hubs in the north east of England. This will allow more freight carriage by rail, removing lorries from stressed road network.

The findings have been welcomed by Iain Stewart MP for Milton Keynes South, Parliamentary Private Secretary for Rail and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for East West Rail who said:

_dsc1316_medium“I’ve always been a strong supporter and advocate of East West Rail. It’s of vital importance to our region but its importance to the UK as whole should not be underestimated. Once operational, this line will become part of the national strategic rail network making many new journeys by rail possible. It will reduce journey times, provide much-needed additional capacity and become a useful diversionary route from other lines. This latest economic assessment clearly indicates that additional investment to enhance the line serves to strengthen the already robust case for investment. It is also important that the tremendous economic value of the western section of the East West Rail is understood as this also helps in developing the business case to extend the line to Cambridge and the East Coast Mainline and for through-train services to East Anglia.”

Alex Pratt, Chair of the Bucks and Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership said:

“This is brilliant. We know that there has been a trend of underinvestment in rail and transport infrastructure in our region for more than a decade. Investment in East West Rail will do much to improve transport links and make our region even more attractive for businesses. It will help to create the right environment for existing business to flourish and attract inward investment and new businesses to the area. This in turn will increase prosperity and generate thousands of new jobs for our region’s growing population. It cannot come soon enough!”

Jo Kaye, Director of Strategy and Planning for Network Rail, said:

“It is clear that East West Rail is not just a railway project, but a catalyst to deliver wide economic, social and environmental benefits. It will support economic growth in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and beyond and thousands of passengers will enjoy an improved and expanded service.”

The full report may be downloaded here.

Notes for editors:

In 2010, the East West Rail Consortium commissioned Oxford Economics to assess the wider benefits of investment in East West Rail. The report revealed a potential uplift in regional GDP of £38 million per annum on completion of the Western Section, linking Aylesbury and Oxford with Milton Keynes and Bedford.

Arup’s analysis describes the wider economic benefits likely to accrue from the opening of the East West Rail, linking Aylesbury and Oxford with Milton Keynes and Bletchley. It uses the same methodology used by Oxford Economics to assess the economic impact, using more recent data (including the 2011 census data) and taking into consideration new developments including:

–          Inclusion of EWR as a committed scheme in the Department for Transport’s High Level Output Specification and funded as part of Network Rail’s enhancement expenditure for 2014 to 2019.

–          Electrification and inclusion in the national ‘Electric Spine’, additional enhancements to deliver and publication of proposed core passenger services  extending to London Marylebone and Paddington

Key findings:

–          Investment in EWR may boost regional GDP of £72.7 million per annum

–          £33.2 million boost to UK tax receipts

–          The investment payback period of 5.5 years remains consistent with Oxford Economics 2010 forecasts, based on recent published cost estimates*.

*The extent of the enhancements and final specification for the redevelopment of the western section is expected to be confirmed in spring 2015 so the scheme costs are based on current estimates.


Media enquiries to:

Caryl Jones, East West Rail Consortium Ph: 07785 927210 E:

Charlotte Schofield, Arup  Ph: 0207 755 4659