In focus: The East West Rail project
The East West Rail Project is a significant scheme, overseen by the East West Rail Consortium to re-establish an existing rail link, with enhanced connections to national mainline services. The main aim of the project is to reinstate the East West Rail Service, taking the service from Oxford through to Bedford and, ultimately on to Cambridge and East Anglia.
Once complete, the East West Rail project will provide a passenger and freight line between Milton Keynes and Aylesbury, for services to run from Milton Keynes to London Marylebone.
Andy Milne, Senior Programme Manager of the East West Rail Project, from Network Rail said:
“The project sees us rebuild sections of the rail infrastructure to reopen the rail link from Oxford to Bedford via Bicester and Bletchley. Additional links from Aylesbury to Bletchley and on to Milton Keynes are also being created, constructing a rail equivalent of the northern half of the M25.
“We are building it in two phases; Phase One involved works from Oxford to Bicester, building a new chord at Bicester to enable trains to run north out of Oxford to Bicester and then turn south on to the Chiltern mainline. The first phase cost £320 million and saw Islip Station rebuilt, Bicester Town Station rebuilt, and the opening of a new station at Oxford Parkway.”
Phase Two of the project – which covers the Western section of the route – focuses on the line from Bicester town to Bedford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury Vale and Princess Risborough.
Carillion and Buckingham Group are undertaking all of the civil and track works, as part of a joint venture on the project. Siemen’s is delivering all of the signalling solutions. The principal contractors are working alongside Network Rail and Chiltern Railways to deliver this scheme.
In November 2016, as part of the Autumn Statement 2016, it was announced that the government was adding an additional £110m of funding for an east-west rail link between Oxford and Cambridge, including a link between Milton Keynes and Aylesbury.
In the Autumn Statement, the chancellor said £100m would be spent to “accelerate” the construction of the project’s Western Section, which includes the Bedford – Oxford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury lines.
The remaining £10m will be allocated to work which identifies a preferred route for the line to extend east of Bedford, via Sandy, to Cambridge.
Chancellor Philip Hammond, said:
“This project can be more than just a transport link. It can become a transformational tech-corridor, drawing on the world-class research strengths of our two best-known universities.”
The increase in funding has been welcomed by local authority leaders in the East West Rail Consortium.
Cllr Rodney Rose of Oxfordshire County Council and Chairman of the East West Rail Joint Delivery Board for the Western Section said:
“Work must begin as soon as possible on the next stage of a railway link between Oxford and Cambridge. Trains will start operating between Oxford and Bicester to Marylebone and there should be no further delay on the next stage from Bicester to Bedford, and from Milton Keynes to Aylesbury.
“It has now been put into control period six which goes from 2019 to 2024. I want spades in the ground and rails being laid no later than 2019, and trains running as close to the original planned date as possible. The benefits the railway will bring to people, communities and businesses in our region and beyond should not be underestimated. We will continue to work closely with Network Rail and the Department for Transport to make this happen.”
The East West Rail project has major benefits across the entire East West Rail corridor, which has already experienced significant growth over the last decade. The Western Section of the scheme between Bedford and Oxford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury opens up a number of passenger and freight opportunities by providing a strategic connection between the radial routes out of London, as well as providing flexibility in the network and alternative diversion routes. The Western Section also provides a real public transport alternative to the use of the trunk road network, as well as interconnecting three of the key growth areas in the region; Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and Bedford.
The railway is a catalyst for economic growth and was originally forecast to create up to 12,000 new jobs. More recent forecasts suggest the number may be even higher than this.
Andy Milne said that it means a lot to be a part of such a large project, with such a national significance. He added: “The East West Rail project is a fantastic scheme and is one of those projects that doesn’t come along very often. The eventual aim of reinstating the route all the way to Cambridge and East Anglia will create massive opportunities for local regeneration and growth.”
For more information about the project, please visit: www.eastwestrail.org.uk.