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.
Phase 2 of the East West Rail covers the route from Bicester to Bedford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury Vale.
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 mid-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 platforms will be provided at high level at Bletchley, which is on the 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 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 line between Aylesbury Vale Parkway and Claydon Junction which will be upgraded for fast passenger services as part of the East West Rail scheme.
The railway east of Cambridge is extensively used by freight, and passenger services are provided under the Greater Anglia Franchise, operating as ONE (formerly Anglia Railways). 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 Central section of East West Rail between Bedford and Cambridge includes the link between Bedford and Sandy. Within the overall scheme, this is the most difficult and costly part of the route to reinstate.
The line between Sandy and Bedford was closed in the 1960’s and some of the land has been sold and developed for other uses. 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 options have been identified and are currently under consideration by the East West Rail Consortium for re-establishing rail links between Cambridge, Sandy and Bedford.
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).
In parallel with the more advanced work on the Western Section, the Consortium has been continuing to review a number of alternative routes and currently work is under way to re-establish definitive routes between Bedford - Sandy - Cambridge, with additional options for introducing a link and interchange with the ECML. These aspects are currently being evaluated within the context of undertaking a refresh of the work carried out to date with particular emphasis being placed on the link between economic activity and potential growth as impacted by possible new improvements to public rail transport links.