The transformational East West Rail project has taken another step forward today.
Network Rail has applied to the Secretary of State for Transport for a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) to construct phase 2 of the project between Bicester and Bedford.
The East West Rail project is being built progressively in phases, and once complete will create a world class rail link between Cambridge and Oxford, connecting communities and businesses to create more jobs, more economic growth, and more sustainable housing.
With phase 1 between Oxford and Bicester already complete, phase 2 proposes major track and signalling upgrades between Bicester, Bedford, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes, including the reinstatement of a ‘mothballed’ section of railway between Bletchley and Claydon Junction.
The proposed works will see major improvements to local travel, with the phased introduction of new rail journeys between:
- Oxford and Milton Keynes, with trains stopping at Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow and Bletchley
- Oxford and Bedford, with trains stopping at Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow, Bletchley, Woburn Sands and Ridgmont
- Milton Keynes and Aylesbury, with trains stopping at Bletchley, Winslow and Aylesbury Vale Parkway
Construction of phase 2 is subject to permission through a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO), which if granted by government could allow major works to begin as soon as 2019.
Councillor Mark Shaw, Chairman of the East West Rail Consortium of Councils which has campaigned for the reopening of the Varsity Line since 1995, said: “East West Rail will drastically reduce journey times within the region, bringing key economic and cultural centres within easy reach of each other.
“After more than 20 years of campaigning, the submission of the TWAO is a hugely significant milestone, marking the final stage in acquiring permission to reopen the rail lines between Oxford and Bedford, and Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.”
“I’d really encourage people to give their views directly to the Department for Transport and leave them in no doubt about the public’s appetite for getting trains on tracks as soon as possible.”
Mayor Dave Hodgson, chairman of England’s Economic Heartland’s Strategic Transport Forum, said: “The Government has made realising the huge economic potential of this region a national priority and East West Rail is fundamental to delivering this. It will support new jobs and housing and also be a catalyst for regenerating the towns and cities across its route.
“We now need the route between Bedford and Cambridge to be confirmed as soon as possible, so that delivery of the full scheme can be achieved within the Government’s stated target of the mid-2020s.”
Colin Murphy, Head of Consenting and Environment for Network Rail, East West Rail project said, “The submission of the Transport and Works Act Order is a culmination of four years of work developing the scheme and follows three positive rounds of community consultation, where we’ve continually refined our proposal based on the views of the community and planning experts. We have carried out a comprehensive programme of consultation to understand the impact of our proposals and I’d like to thank everyone who contributed. As intended the feedback we received has informed our final proposals which we are submitting today. Once completed, the new railway will connect communities and businesses along the route and beyond, creating new opportunities for jobs, housing and economic growth”.
Rob Brighouse, Chairman at East West Railway Company said: “As a dedicated delivery body, East West Railway Company’s role is to streamline decision making and ensure the project is delivered quickly and cost-effectively.
“We will lead the development, procurement and delivery of this transformational project, with the support of the community and our delivery partners.
“Today’s announcement by Network Rail is very welcome and shows our shared commitment to move all elements of the project from planning to delivery as quickly as possible.”
East West Rail phase 2 is part of the wider East West Rail scheme to connect Cambridge to Oxford. The Western Section (phase 1), which operates services between Oxford and Bicester was completed in December 2016. The Western Section (phase 2) proposes to extend services from Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury. The Central Section (phase 3) will see the full reconnection from Cambridge to Oxford, and the proposal is currently in development.
All submission documents are available at www.networkrail.co.uk/east-west-rail and paper copies can be viewed at the following locations:
- House of Lords library
- House of Commons library
- Bicester library
- Aylesbury Study Centre
- Winslow library
- Milton Keynes library
- Bedford library
The TWAO process:
- Network Rail submits TWAO and publishes and serves notices;
- A statutory period to receive representations until 7th September 2018;
- the Secretary of State (SoS) may then decide on one of three options (1. Hold a public inquiry, 2. Hold a hearing, 3. Exchange written representations between relevant parties)
- These would be led by an independent inspector who will make recommendations to the SoS
- SoS makes a decision whether phase 2 can begin.
Public submissions are open until September 7th 2018, and these should be made to the Department for Transport at firstname.lastname@example.org
The East West Railway Company is a non-departmental public arm’s length body set up by the government to accelerate the East West Rail project.