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 is the difference between the East West Rail Consortium, East West Rail Alliance and the East West Railway Company?
What are the estimated journey times?
Which train operator will run East West Rail services?
What is a Transport and Works Act Order?
Why is Network Rail also applying for planning permission along the route?
Will there be a station at Steeple Claydon?
I live near the railway. Am I entitled to compensation?
How noisy will the new railway be?
What consultation has taken place?
Will East West Rail be electrified and if so, when?
Will I still be able to use my railway crossing?
Why has Government supported East West Rail?
What is happening with the Central Section to connect Bedford with Cambridge?
How does HS2 affect East West Rail?

What is East West Rail?

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 via Aylesbury)
Central Section (Bedford to Cambridge)
Eastern Section (Cambridge to Norwich and Ipswich)

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What is the Western Section?

It is the section between Oxford and Bedford, including the link from Aylesbury to Milton Keynes. It will be built by the early 2020s.

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 Aylesbury

The Western Section route is located partly on existing lines and partly on a section of mothballed railway between Bedford and Oxford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury Vale. 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.
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What work is involved on the Western Section?

There are two separate phases of work.

Phase 1 – Bicester to Oxford (Complete)

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. This involved the doubling of the railway track between Oxford and Bicester, and the construction of a new chord (a short section of track) to connect Bicester to the Chiltern mainline. East West Rail Phase 1 also involved the upgrading of track and signalling, and the construction of two new stations at Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village.

Services between Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village began on October 26, 2015. And on December 12, 2016, services between Oxford and London Marylebone via Bicester commenced.

Phase 2 – Bedford to Bicester, Milton Keynes to Princes Risborough (due to open in early 2020s)

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 Aylesbury.

Work taking place is as follows:

Bicester to Claydon Junction: Track will be doubled and foot and highway crossings diverted, replaced with structures or closed.

Claydon Junction to Bletchley: This is the mothballed section of track and will be double tracked. At Bletchley Station there will be two high level platforms and a connecting footbridge and a new station will be built at Winslow.

Bletchley to Bedford: The current train service will continue to run and the track will remain as existing. There will be some alterations to some foot and highway crossings; diverted, replaced with structures or closed. Rigmont and Woburn Sands stations will receive platform extensions.

Claydon Junction to Aylesbury: Track will be doubled and foot and highway crossings diverted, replaced with structures or closed. There will be two platforms and a connecting footbridge at Aylesbury Vale Parkway Station.

Aylesbury to Princes Risborough: The Princes Risborough to Aylesbury line (PRA) is proposed to remain single track. There will be a platform extension at Princes Risborough Station.
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What is the East West Rail Consortium?

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 Strategic Board containing senior elected representatives from local authorities along the route; alongside officers from Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Department for Transport, East West Railway Company and Network Rail.

More
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What is the difference between the East West Rail Consortium, East West Rail Alliance and the East West Railway Company?

East West Rail Consortium: The Consortium contains councils along the East West Rail route. It was formed in 1995, and since then has made the strategic and business case for East West Rail. The Consortium is also a ‘minority shareholder’ in the scheme, having contributed £45m towards the Western Section. It works closely with Network Rail, the Department for Transport and other partners to ensure the line is built as soon as possible.

The East West Rail Alliance: The Alliance is made up of Network Rail, Atkins, Laing O’Rourke and Volker Rail. It is  responsible for designing and building the Western Section.

East West Railway Company: The company was formed by the Secretary of State for Transport to optimise the delivery of the East West Rail. It initially reviewed the East West Rail proposals and led a value engineering and programme delivery review to identify how the value and benefits from this project can be realised as quickly as is possible. The company will:

  • work with the Department for Transport on its aim to open the entire line (including the Central Section from Bedford to Cambridge) by the mid 2020s
  • explore innovative funding and financing options
  • drive significant cost and time benefits in the construction, maintenance and operation of East West Rail
  • generate greater contestability in rail construction and maintenance
  • integrate infrastructure and train services to provide a better experience for passengers
  • work with local communities to make sure the new railway meets the needs of those who live and work in the area

More information on the East West Railway Company (gov.uk page)

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What are the estimated journey times?

  • Oxford to Milton Keynes 40 minutes
  • Oxford to Bedford 60 minutes
  • Milton Keynes to Aylesbury 33 minutes
  • Bletchley to Oxford 30 minutes
  • Oxford to Cambridge 73 minutes (aspirational)
  • Bletchley to Cambridge 43 minutes (aspirational)

Which train operator will run the East West Rail services?

This is under strategic consideration by the East West Railway Company/

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What is a Transport and Works Act Order?

The following is taken from the Department for Transport’s ‘Transport and Works Acts – A Brief Guide’.

Orders under the Transport and Works Act 1992 (the TWA) can authorise a railway scheme and certain other types of infrastructure project. The Secretary of State for Transport decides whether to grant the TWA.

The powers that can be given in a TWA order can be wide-ranging. They include:

  • powers to construct, alter, maintain and operate a transport system or inland waterway;
  • powers to carry out and use works that interfere with navigation rights;
  • compulsory powers to buy land;
  • the right to use land (for example, for access or for a work site);
  • amendments to, or exclusion of, other legislation;
  • the closure or alteration of roads and footpaths;
  • provision of temporary alternative routes;
  • safeguards for public service providers and others; and
  • powers for making bylaws.

A TWA order does not in itself grant planning permission. But the organisation applying for the order can ask the Secretary of State to grant planning permission for any development described in the order.

On the other hand, the organisation applying for a TWA order may apply for planning permission, separately, to the local planning authority.

Planning permission may not be needed for some kinds of work, such as replacing railway and tramway track on an existing transport system.

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Why is Network Rail also applying for planning permission along the route?

As mentioned above, organisations applying for a TWAO can also separately apply for planning permission from local planning authorities. Network Rail is doing this in some areas along the Western Section route (for example, for environmental ponds) so that it can start work on these aspects sooner, accelerating the speed at which East West Rail can be delivered. Planning applications made to councils go through the normal due process.

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Will there be a station at Steeple Claydon?

The East West Rail Western Section Phase Two plans do not include provision of a station at Steeple Claydon. However, Network Rail’s current plans will allow for a station to be built, if required at some point in the future, subject to funding.

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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.

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How noisy will the railway be?

As the new railway will be built to the latest modern standards, it is therefore expected to be quieter than older equivalent routes, for example the modern track will have continuous welded rail. Network Rail is carrying out an Environmental Impact Assessment to fully assess noise levels based upon the current expected timetable. Where these predictions indicate a noticeable increase in railway noise, suitable mitigation will be proposed. These could include noise attenuation barriers, earthworks and/or noise insulation.

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What consultation has taken place?

Network Rail held three public consultations on the Western Section Phase two between Bicester and Bedford and Princes Risborough and Milton Keynes, in autumn 2015, summer 2017 and early 2018.

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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Will East West Rail be electrified and if so, when?

When Government originally 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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Will I still be able to use my railway crossing?

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.
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Why has Government supported East West Rail?

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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What is happening with the Central Section to link Bedford with Cambridge?

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.

Twenty potential corridors between Bedford and Cambridge were carefully analysed by Network Rail, with input from a very wide range of stakeholders including the local authorities which make up the East West Rail Consortium. The corridor via Sandy offered the best value in terms of economic benefits, reduced journey time between Oxford and Cambridge, population growth and employment in the area, operating costs for new services and forecast passenger demand. Local infrastructure and the wider impacts of the railway were also considered. Work is now continuing to identify a more detailed route within this chosen corridor, and following this work, there will be a full public consultation on the proposals.

More details on the Central Section including indicative time-scales are here.

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How does HS2 affect East West Rail?

The HS2 Phase One Act of Parliament contains legal powers to construct East West Rail in the area of north Bucks where the two routes meet.

The Act has powers to use the present alignment of a section of the Claydon to Aylesbury line and pass under the Oxford to Bletchley route.  This intersection requires the current Claydon to Aylesbury line to be realigned towards the east and for the Oxford to Bletchley route to be raised in order to provide the necessary vertical clearance for the HS2 route to pass beneath it.

Integrating construction of both projects has a number of benefits:

  • Cost savings through avoiding duplicated works
  • Construction efficiencies and reduced construction durations
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Reduced construction impact on local communities
  • Safety benefits through integrated design and constructionReturn to top of page