All Party Parliamentary Group for East West Rail November 2014

In November 2014, the All Party Parliamentary Group and East West Rail and East West Rail Consortium held an event at the Institution of Civil Engineers to brief MPs, councillors, business leaders and senior rail industry representatives on the progress towards making the railway a reality. Videos of the presentations are available to view here.

Event overview

East West Rail APPG November 2014 – Part One
Introduction with Iain Stewart MP.

Iain Stewart MP for Milton Keynes South, Chair of the APPG and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Transport, opens the event. He speaks of the tremendous importance of East West Rail both locally but also as a national infrastructure project, and how he’s heartened to see the progress made over the last year upgrading the line between Bicester and Oxford and the new chord being constructed to link it to the Chiltern Main Line. He is also encouraged by the report published by Arup which not only confirmed the economic case for the project, but that the benefits are now double original estimates – to £73m boost to annual regional GDP, £38m per annum boost to UK tax receipts and an investment payback period of just over five years. In particular, he highlights how EWR will improve rail connectivity throughout the UK. When services start operating on EWR Western Section, when 45 of 61 UK cities will become accessible from stations on the line with no more than one change.

East West Rail APPG November 2014 – Part Two
Progress on the Western Section. Phase 1 Oxford to Bicester, Phase 2 Bicester to Bedford, Prince’s Risborough to Milton Keynes.

Network Rail’s Senior Programme Manager for East West Rail, Andy Milne, presents an update on progress towards having the Western Section operational by March 2019, when new passenger train services are due to start operating between Bedford and Oxford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury. Recent developments include the construction of Oxford Parkway Station at Water Eaton, work to improve safety at all railway crossings, bridge construction and track laying. Work is on schedule for Chiltern Railways new service between Oxford Parkway to London Marylebone via Bicester in September 2015, and from Oxford to London Marylebone by March 2016.

Phase 2 Bedford to Bicester, Princes Risborough to Milton Keynes. Andy explains how the team will deliver this section by March 2019 and current work in progress to make this happen. The team has started engaging with the supply chain to get an Alliance contract team on board for the detailed design and construction once the final scope for the scheme is finalised. He highlights some of the challenges to be addressed to create a 21st railway century including the safety on railway crossings, planning processes, engagement with lineside residents and local communities and managing how the line will interface with HS2 to minimise disruption.

East West Rail APPG November 2014 – Part Three
Dr Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and Vice-Chair of the APPG for East West Rail.

Long-standing supporter of East West Rail, Julian Huppert MP says the scheme is not just about the connecting Oxford and Cambridge, but all the places in between and beyond – through to East Anglia with links to the north-south mainline services and avoidance of London. He explains that whilst the case for East West Rail is ‘obvious’, it needs to be quantified and finding the right route is a challenge that he is pleased that Network Rail are now taking this work forward. “We’re making progress and we’re going to get there.”

East West Rail APPG November 2014 – Part Four
Graham Botham, Network Rail. Progress towards EWR Central Section.

Graham Botham, Principal Strategic Planner with Network Rail explains how the work undertaken by Atkins, commissioned by the Consortium, has demonstrated there is a significant opportunity to deliver real economic benefit which justifies further investment in the Central Section. He outlines how next phase of work will identify what future train services should look like and then what railway infrastructure is needed for these services. The Atkins study has identified locations where high benefits may be realised through rail transport links, and these are being assessed until a preferred corridor and route is identified.

East West Rail APPG November 2014 – Part Five
East West Rail: Catalyst for Growth. Dr Ann Limb OBE DL, Chair of SEMLEP.

East West Rail has been promoted as ‘not just a railway’ but vital infrastructure and catalyst for growth, to support the regional economy, job creation and planned housing growth.  Dr Ann Limb OBE DL, Chair of the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, speaks  of the importance of East West Rail to the economy in the South East Midlands and neighbouring Local Enterprise Partnership areas, particularly welcoming the opportunity it presents to support international trade and export business.

East West Rail APPG November 2014 – Part Six
Questions and Answers

East West Rail APPG November 2014 – Part Seven
Closing Remarks by Cllr Rodney Rose (Oxfordshire) and Cllr Ian Bates (Cambridgeshire).

Concluding the event, Cllr Rodney Rose of Oxfordshire County Council, who chairs the Joint Delivery Board for the Western Section of East West Rail speaks of the tremendous importance of EWR to improve rail services in Oxfordshire and across the region, and highlights the benefits of joint working between the local authorities and Network Rail to deliver the best possible railway. He welcomed his Central Section counterpart, Cllr Ian Bates of Cambridgeshire County Council who chairs the newly-formed East West Rail Central Section Board. Cllr Bates stresses the importance of completing ‘missing link’to extend the Western Section to Cambridge, to enhance services through to East Anglia and the East Coast ports. He presents a letter to Iain Stewart MP to deliver to the Chancellor, highlighting the significant potential benefit of investment in the East West Rail Central Section and requesting ongoing Government support to develop the project prior to Autumn Statement.

Post-event note on the Autumn Statement and National Infrastructure Plan 2014
In December 2014, East West Rail Western Section was identified as one of the top forty investment priorities in the National Infrastructure Plan and in the Autumn Statement, the Government committed to consider the outputs of the Network Rail study into the Central Section (Bedford to Cambridge) as part of the planning process for 2019 to 2024 (Control Period 6).

East West Rail APPG November 2014 – Part Eight
Post-event interviews with delegates, speakers and attendees.