Network Rail has announced its plan for construction of the western section of the East West Rail link between Bedford and Oxford, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes, as part of their five-year strategic business plan 2014-2019.
The East West Rail Consortium, which includes all the local authorities along the proposed route, has successfully promoted the re-instatement of a rail link between Bedford and Oxford to enhance rail services both within the region and beyond.
With the support and financial backing of the Department for Transport, the Consortium will now work with Network Rail to develop and implement the project, with the aim of having East West Rail services operational for passengers and freight by December 2017. The route between Bedford and Oxford is also proposed for electrification as part of a wider scheme to enhance passenger and freight services between Southampton and the West and East Midlands, and the Consortium and Network Rail will be examining ways in which the two projects can be integrated.
The next steps are for Network Rail and the Consortium to complete environmental impact assessments and obtain any necessary planning consent.
Patrick O’Sullivan, Rail Consultant for the East West Rail Consortium, said:
‘Support for the East West Rail has been tremendous. We shall be talking to parish councils, local residents, businesses owners, rail users and other stakeholders shortly to ensure that we achieve the maximum benefit from the railway and to address any concerns at this early stage in the project. Network Rail and the Consortium expect to start formal consultations in Autumn this year.’
The East West Rail link will enable new journeys and faster journey times, linking major economic centres and centres of economic growth within the region. It will remove traffic from already congested roads and also avoid the need for people to travel via London.
It will also connect with national mainline services East Midlands Mainline (to Derby, Nottingham and Derby), West Coast Mainline (to Birmingham and the North West of England) and Great Western Mainline (to Bristol and South Wales) becoming an important part of the national strategic rail network.
Electrification of the line between Oxford and Bedford will provide the infrastructure for quieter, cleaner and more efficient electric trains.
Cllr Peter Hardy, Chairman of the Joint Delivery Board for the Western Section for East West Rail said:
‘This is really good news for the region. The economic, environmental and social benefits of the East West Rail link to the areas it serves in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire and beyond should not be underestimated. The railway is of huge importance to support economic growth. It will link major centres for economic and housing growth within the region, enabling more journeys and making the areas it serves even more attractive for businesses and inward investment. It will also support the creation of some 12,000 jobs and boost annual regional gross domestic product by £38million.”
The target date for train services to the operational on the East West Rail link between Oxford and Bedford and Aylesbury and Milton Keynes is December 2017, and for electrification of the line between Oxford and Bedford to be complete by March 2019.
In addition it remains a firm aim of the East West Rail Consortium to re-introduce a rail link between Bedford and Cambridge (the ‘Central Section’) and work will shortly begin to re-assess the benefits that several of the potential routes could provide.