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 Village has been 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 was being delivered as Phase 1 of the overall East West Rail project and includes the additional infrastructure required for East West Rail train services. Chiltern Railways began services from Oxford to London Marylebone via Bicester on 12th December 2016.
Phase 2 of the Western Section covers the route from Bicester Village to Bedford (due open in 2023), and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury (due open in 2024).
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.
Train services on the East West Rail line will then follow the existing Marston Vale Line from Bletchley to Bedford. New high-level platforms will be provided at Bletchley, which connects with West Coast Main Line, allowing East West Rail trains to run to Milton Keynes.
The East West Rail project may ultimately include upgrading of the route between Oxford and Bedford to a two-track railway. It is further anticipated that train services will extend to Reading, using existing operational lines.
The Western Section will also provide train services between Milton Keynes and London Marylebone, via Aylesbury. The line between Aylesbury and Claydon Junction will be upgraded to a double track for fast passenger services as part of the East West Rail scheme.
The Central Section of East West Rail will extend the Western Section of East West Rail to Cambridge. Within the overall scheme, this is the most difficult and costly part of the route to reinstate as the former 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.
The Consortium is now working with Network Rail to identify how the rail network may be enhanced to deliver new train services and connections across the region, and to identify a single preferred route within a broad corridor from Bedford to Cambridge via Sandy, for train services through to East Anglia.
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.
Page updated 20th February 2017.