The East West Main Line should reflect the 21st century communities it serves: a hub for science and technology innovation, with expertise in clean energy, and blessed with a unique natural, built and historic environment which must be preserved and enhanced.
The main line must be an exemplar for its high-quality standards of design, construction and operation, by incorporating the following principles:
Electrified from the start
The imperative to decarbonise our transport system is front and centre of transport policy at national, regional and local level. Electrification of the East West Main Line offers the only realistic traction technology for high-speed, longer-distance passenger services and freight services that will operate on it.
With the West Anglian Main Line, East Coast Main Line, Midland Main Line and West Coast Main Line all electrified, the case for electrification is heightened from an operational perspective.
Experience shows that the cost of retrofitting infrastructure for electrification once a rail link is operational will be significantly higher than if the investment is made at the same time as the initial construction works.
In developing detailed proposals to deliver East West Rail as an electrified route the importance of high quality and environmentally sensitive design must be applied as a key principle underpinning all work.
Communities at its heart
Our local communities – both urban and rural – located near the East West Main Line must benefit from it. This means improving sustainable local connectivity to and from stations to nearby communities, ensuring as many people as possible can access the opportunities it unlocks.
The East West Main Line is also a catalyst for regeneration opportunities for the areas around stations while supporting planned growth, including in Oxford, Bletchley, Aylesbury and Bedford.
It is important that other opportunities for the main line to both benefit local communities and minimise any negative impacts are realised. This includes through improving digital connectivity for people living near the line, and sensitive design, construction and operation (see below).
The transformational benefit of the East West Main Line to the region, its residents and businesses, will be enhanced further by ensuring it is delivered as a digitally enabled corridor, one that provides improved digital connectivity for both passengers and communities close to the rail corridor.
The East West Main Line Partnership and England’s Economic Heartland have worked closely with the East West Railway Company and government departments to enable the section between Bicester and Bletchley to be delivered as a digitally enabled infrastructure corridor, providing access to high quality broadband and 5G for nearby rural communities.
Future stages of the East West Main Line should be specified as digitally enabled infrastructure from the start, with the cost of that provision included within the overall cost of the scheme.
The cost of providing enhanced digital connectivity as a percentage of the overall scheme cost is marginal. However, unless it is included within the specification of the works from the outset it can be difficult to secure the provision.
Contributing to net environmental benefit
The scale of the East West Main Line is significant, not just as a transformational project for the region, but in terms of the potential impact it has on the natural and built environment.
It is essential that the design of proposed works makes a positive contribution towards the requirement to achieve net environmental benefit.
In addition, the proposed works need to deliver a positive impact overall on biodiversity. The design of individual elements must respect and enhance the local environment. Particular attention must be paid to ensuring the setting and amenity of local communities is respected.
Experience of the Bicester-Bletchley section shows that in some instances the impact of the works has been exacerbated by decisions taken at the design stage which ultimately served to increase the impact on the adjacent local highway network during construction.
It has also highlighted the need for a higher level of mitigation measures on the local highway network, and the need for a higher level of oversight and management of construction activity.
The Partnership will continue to work closely with its partners to ensure the impact of construction is mitigated as far as possible for communities, building on experience gained to date.