FAQ

This page includes answers to the most frequently asked questions received by members of the East West Rail Consortium.

Please email info@eastwestrail.org.uk if you cannot find the answer to your question here.

What is East West Rail?
What is the Western Section?
What work is involved on the Western Section?
What is the East West Rail Consortium?
What are the timescales for delivery of the Western Section Phase 2?
When will East West Rail services start operating?
What train services will run on East West Rail (Western Section)?
I live near the railway. Am I entitled to compensation?
What noise mitigation measures do you plan?
Will there be formal consultation and if so, when?
Will East West Rail be electrified and if so, when?
Will I still be able to use my railway crossing?
Who will build and own the track and infrastructure?
Why has Government supported East West Rail?
Why haven’t you committed to go all the way to Cambridge?
I would like to find out more about the plans for East West Rail – who can I speak to?

Q: What is East West Rail?

A: East West Rail is a scheme to re-establish a rail link between Cambridge and Oxford to improve rail services between East Anglia, Central and Southern England with enhanced connections to national mainline rail services. The proposed East West Rail route falls intro three distinct sections:

Western Section (Oxford to Bedford, Milton Keynes to Princes Risborough)
Central Section (Bedford to Cambridge)
Eastern Section (Cambridge to Norwich and Ipswich)

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Q: What is the Western Section?

A: Development of this section of railway will result in the introduction of direct rail passenger services as follows:
Bedford to Oxford
Milton Keynes to Oxford
Milton Keynes to London (Marylebone) via Aylesbury

Work on the Western Section’ involves upgrading and re-constructing existing and ‘mothballed’ sections of the Oxford – Bicester – Bletchley – Bedford, and Princes Risborough – Aylesbury – Claydon Junction railway lines. This is a committed scheme that is being funded by the Department for Transport with a contribution from the East West Rail Consortium, and is being delivered by Network Rail. Following a replanning of all railway enhancement schemes being delivered by Network Rail, a target completion date is due to be announced at the end of 2016. It is expected in the early 2020s, subject to approval being secured.
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Q: What work is involved on the Western Section?

A: There are two separate phases of work.

Phase 1 – Bicester to Oxford

Chiltern Railways’ Evergreen 3 project involved the introduction of new direct services between London (Marylebone) and Oxford via Bicester. The scope was enlarged to include the infrastructure required for East West Rail (Phase 1) between Oxford and Bicester, which involves doubling of the railway track between Oxford and Bicester, and the construction of a new chord to connect Bicester to the Chiltern mainline. East West Rail Phase 1 also involves the upgrade of track and signalling, and the construction of two new stations at Oxford Parkway and Bicester Town (now re-named Bicester Village).

Work between the new Oxford Parkway station and Bicester Village has been completed and services began operating on 26th October 2015. Work between Oxford Parkway is due for completion by December 2016, with services between Oxford and London (Marylebone) via Bicester commencing shortly afterwards.

Phase 2 – Bedford to Bicester, Milton Keynes to Princes Risborough

Phase 2 of the Western Section involves the upgrade and reconstruction of existing and mothballed section of the lines linking Bedford and Bicester, and Milton Keynes and Princes Risborough. Preliminary designs are being developed further, following public consultation, and further consultation will take place on more detailed designs.
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Q: What is the East West Rail Consortium?

A: The East West Rail Consortium was established in 1995 and is formed of local authorities and strategic partners with the sole aim of re-introducing a rail link between East Anglia, Central and Southern England. The Consortium is led by Cambridgeshire County Council.

There is a Joint Delivery Board for the Western Section, with senior elected representatives from the eight local authorities along the route; officers from the Department for Transport, and Network Rail who are responsible for delivering the scheme.

There is also a Central Section Board which includes elected members and officers from local authorities, who are working with Network Rail to identify a preferred route and develop the case to extend East West Rail Western Section eastwards to Cambridge.
More
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Q: What are the timescales for delivery of the Western Section Phase 2?

A: Network Rail was tasked with delivery of the scheme as proposed by the Consortium in its prospectus published in November 2011. The funding for the scheme was identified within the 2014-2019 railway funding control period 5.

As a result of the replanning of all rail enhancement projects in 2015, the revised plan is for the Western Section to be complete before 2024. The East West Rail Consortium, Network Rail and the Department for Transport are working closely to identify how work may be accelerated so that trains can start operating at the earliest opportunity before then.

A delivery programme and target completion date are expected to be published in early 2017.

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Q: When will East West Rail services start operating?

A: 

Oxford to Bicester (EWR Phase 1)

October 2016: Chiltern Railways started its new passenger service between Oxford Parkway and London Marylebone via Bicester Village. The upgraded line between the new Oxford Parkway station (at Water Eaton) and Bicester Village station also provides the infrastructure for East West Rail services.

December 2016: Work between Oxford Parkway and Oxford city centre is due to be complete for Chiltern Railways to extend its services to and from Oxford. Services will run between Oxford city centre, Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village and London Marylebone.

Bicester to Bedford, Aylesbury to Milton Keynes (EWR Phase 2)

Early 2020s (to be confirmed): A target completion date is expected to be confirmed by early 2017. Train services could start operating between Oxford, Bedford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury in the early 2020s, subject to securing the necessary approvals.
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Q: What train services will run on East West Rail (Western Section)?

A: A mixture of local and long distance passenger trains and freight trains will use the line. The exact pattern of services has yet to be determined but the East West Rail Consortium has proposed three new passenger trains per hour in each direction, as follows:

Reading – Oxford – Milton Keynes

One train per hour (1tph) Oxford and Milton Keynes, stopping at Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow and Bletchley. These services could also start from Reading or Didcot.

Journey Times:

  • Oxford to Milton Keynes 40 minutes
  • Reading to Milton Keynes 84 minutes

Reading – Oxford – Bedford

One train per hour from Reading to Oxford and Bedford, stopping at Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow, Bletchley, Woburn Sands and Ridgmont. Again these services could start from Didcot.

Journey Times:

  • Oxford to Bedford 60 minutes
  • Reading to Bedford 106 minutes

Milton Keynes – Aylesbury – London Marylebone

One train per hour from Milton Keynes to London Marylebone as an extension of the existing Chiltern Railways services between Aylesbury Vale Parkway and London Marylebone with stops at Bletchley and Winslow. This service may stop at Princes Risborough and High Wycombe.

Journey Times:

  • Milton Keynes to Aylesbury 33 minutes
  • High Wycombe to Milton Keynes 63 minutes

Actual service patterns will be announced by the Department for Transport. In future, there will also be access to London Heathrow Airport via the Heathrow Western Access.

No change to the current hourly stopping service on the Marston Vale Line between Bedford and Bletchley is envisaged.

There may ultimately be a long-distance cross-country service between Southampton to Manchester via the EWR route (up to one train per hour) plus additional freight services.
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Q: I live near the railway. Am I entitled to compensation?

A: The current plans for the project include the upgrading of existing lines as well as re-instating a section of mothballed track. Compensation is not applicable when Network Rail or its contractors undertake duties as a statutory undertaker to develop and maintain the railway.

Railway upgrade and improvement works are essential and can sometimes be disruptive for local communities.  In such cases Network Rail will endeavour to mitigate the impact of works to minimise levels of noise, vibration, access to property or visual intrusion.  Network Rail will also work with local authorities and communities to ensure proper notification is given and that any disruption is kept to a minimum.

Some small areas of land may be required for developing and upgrading the railway line (such as land for installing new electrical sub stations or for locating the parapets of new bridges to replace level crossings).  There will also be a need to temporarily take possession of or to use land to provide contractors with access points for construction work sites.  In these circumstances, compensation will be agreed between Network Rail and the land owners in line with the current compensation rules.

For more information, please read our Information Sheet: Guidance to Compensation and Mitigation.
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Q: What noise mitigation measures do you plan?

A: During the course of the further development of the East West Rail Phase 2 project, assessment of predicted noise and vibration levels arising from both construction works and future train operations will be derived from noise modelling. Where noise predictions show a potential for significant impacts, mitigation measures will be established in accordance with national guidelines. Vibrations from trains are very unlikely to cause structural damage to houses and buildings near the railway. However, if necessary, we will inspect the infrastructure in the vicinity of any potential problems.
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Q: Will there be formal consultation and if so, when?

A: A first round of consultation on preliminary proposals for the scheme was held by Network Rail with stakeholders including local authorities; bodies such as Natural England; local communities and those identified with a land interest. This took place over a six-week period in September and October 2015. There was also a series of public consultation events and information was made available both online and key libraries in the area.

This consultation is now closed, but you may access the information presented here.
https://consultations.networkrail.co.uk/communications/ewr-phase-2

Feedback has been reviewed and is being used to develop more detailed plans. A second round of consultation is expected to take place in spring 2017.

Network Rail and the East West Rail Consortium welcome feedback and comments at any time, so please email ewrconsultation@networkrail.co.uk with your questions or comments. To receive email updates on progress, including announcement of dates for consultation, please subscribe here.
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Q: Will East West Rail be electrified and if so, when?

A: When Government gave the go-ahead to East West Rail Western Section, the plan was to electrify the line between Oxford and Bedford. 

Work to electrify the line between Bletchley and Oxford was expected to be take place at the same time as the work to reconstruct and upgrade the line between Bletchley and Bicester, for efficiency and to minimise disruption during the construction phase, with electrification of the Bletchley to Bedford line to follow at a later stage.

Since then, the Department for Transport has deferred electrification of the line indefinitely, allowing project resources to be focused on opening the railway at the earliest opportunity.

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Q: Will I still be able to use my railway crossing?

A: Wherever possible it is desirable to close crossings and either replace them with a diversion, a bridge or an underpass. Where this is not possible, for example, due to the existence of existing development, a Diversity Impact Assessment will be undertaken to look at the operations of existing crossings to ensure the least possible downtime of barriers to road traffic. A crossings ‘task group’ is evaluating all crossings on the Western section of the East West Rail route to explore opportunities to make them safer. For more information, please read our Information Sheet on Information Sheet: Crossings and Rights of Way
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Q: Who will build and own the track and infrastructure?

A: The railway is owned by Network Rail, who will receive funding for the project from the Department for Transport. Network Rail, Laing O’Rourke, Atkins and Volker Rail have formed the East West Rail Alliance to undertake detailed design and construction of the East West Rail (Western Section) Phase 2 project. The East West Rail Consortium are making a contribution towards the delivery costs and are working as a joint delivery partner to the East West Rail Alliance.
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Q: Why has Government supported East West Rail?

A: The railway will provide a new strategic link between the Thames Valley area, the West Coast Main Line and the Midland Main Line. It connects areas of rapid population, employment, economic and housing growth. It will provide a link between three strategic north-south routes, enabling services to avoid congested London and West Midlands areas. Train services on the new route are forecast to create more than 12,000 new jobs and generate over £100m a year for the regional economy. Part of the funding for the work will be provided by local authorities within the East West Rail Consortium.
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Q: Why haven’t you committed to go all the way to Cambridge?

A: Plans for the Central Section of the old Oxford – Cambridge Railway (the ‘Varsity Line) are less well developed. Part of the former railway was closed in the 1960s and in places the original track has been built over. The Government has said it will work with the East West Rail Consortium to determine if Central Section may be similarly funded in future years. This work is ongoing, and updates are posted here.
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Q: I would like to find out more about the plans for East West Rail – who can I speak to?

A: Members of the East West Rail Consortium and East West Rail Alliance are happy to discuss the project and keep you informed of developments. You may also subscribe for email updates on this website. We welcome invitations to attend local meetings and community events to keep you informed, answer questions and discuss any concerns you may have about the project.

To get in touch, please contact the Consortium’s Communications Manager, Caryl Jones by email caryl.jones@bedford.gov.uk or call 07785 927210 for general enquiries about East West Rail.

For enquiries or comments about emerging design plans, please email EWRConsultation@networkrail.co.uk.
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Page last updated 17th November 2016