The proposed East West Rail route can be broken down into three sections; Western, Central and Eastern.
The Western Section route is on existing lines between Bedford and Oxford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury Vale.
Oxford to Bicester Town is being significantly upgraded by Chiltern Railways and Network Rail as part of the scheme to introduce a new service between Oxford, Bicester and London Marylebone. This project is being delivered as Phase 1 of the overall East West Rail project and includes the additional infrastructure required for East West Rail train services. Work between the new Oxford Parkway station and Bicester Town is due to be complete by September 2015 and between Oxford and Oxford Parkway by spring 2016.
Phase 2 of the Western Section covers the route from Bicester Town to Bedford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury Vale and Princes Risborough.
The line East of Bicester to Claydon Junction that is currently only used by freight trains will be upgraded for fast passenger services.
The section of rail track between Claydon Junction and Bletchley has been out of use and ‘mothballed’ since the early-1990s and will be rebuilt. A new station will be provided at Winslow.
EWR train services will then follow the existing Marston Vale Line from Bletchley to Bedford. New high-level platforms will be provided Bletchley, which connects with West Coast Main Line, allowing East West Rail trains to run to Milton Keynes.
The East West Rail scheme ultimately includes the upgrading of the route between Oxford and Bedford to a two-track electrified railway. It is further anticipated that EWR train services will extend to Reading, using existing operational lines.
The Western Section will provide train services between Milton Keynes and London Marylebone, via Aylesbury. This service will use the existing Chiltern line between London and Aylesbury Vale Parkway and the current freight-only line between Aylesbury Vale Parkway and Claydon Junction which will be upgraded for fast passenger services as part of the East West Rail scheme. Enhancements to the line may also be necessary between Aylesbury and Princes Risborough.
The Central section of East West Rail between Bedford and Cambridge includes the lreintroduction of the link between Bedford, Sandy and Cambridge. Within the overall scheme, this is the most difficult and costly part of the route to reinstate as the railway has been dismantled and the land disposed of.
The line was closed in the 1960s. Many bridges have either been removed or are in a poor state of repair and the Bedford bypass severs the line. However, a number of route corridors have been identified and are being considered by the East West Rail Consortium for re-establishing rail links between Cambridge, Sandy and Bedford. The Consortium is now working with Network Rail to take this work forward, to identify how the rail network may be enhanced to deliver new train services and connections across the region, and to identify a preferred route to extend the Western Section of East West Rail for services through to East Anglia.
A new link known as the Hitchin Flyover between the East Coast Main Line and Cambridge has recently been constructed. Included within the plans for the Hitchin Flyover, Network Rail has made passive provision for the central section of East West Rail to link into East Coast Main Line (ECML).
The railway east of Cambridge is extensively used by freight as well as providing passenger services. There were no direct passenger trains between Cambridge and Norwich until an hourly service was introduced in September 2002. In December 2004, the train operator, ONE, introduced an hourly service from Ipswich to Cambridge to reflect the increasing strategic importance of this important rail corridor.
The railway for East West Rail services east of Cambridge to East Anglia and the east coast ports is also being reviewed as part of the work being undertaken by Network Rail to identify how the rail infrastructure may best deliver the train services that will unlock the greatest potential benefits.