Phase 2 of the East West Rail project, which, with the final Phase 3 would connect Oxford and Cambridge via Bedford, Milton Keynes and Bicester, has received the green light.
On 4 February the Secretary of State for Transport approved the Transport and Works Act Order application submitted by Network Rail, thereby giving permission for work to start on the next phase (Phase 2) of East West Rail. The completed project would make it the first new railway line in 50 years between Oxford and Bletchley.
Phase 2 would see two trains per hour each way between Oxford and Milton Keynes, one train per hour each way between Oxford and Bedford, and one train per hour each way between Milton Keynes and Aylesbury.
East West Rail will connect to the Great Western main line, the Chiltern main line, the West Coast main line and the Midland main line, all of which will give passengers much better east-west rail links. While also helping to provide jobs and stimulate economic growth, better rail links will hopefully also encourage people to switch from polluting and congesting cars to public transport.
“Building a new railway would transform connectivity and journey times across the heart of the country. East West Rail promises to provide a greener, low carbon transport system which will bring huge benefits to passengers and businesses - driving economic growth and creating opportunities for housing and new jobs.”
Phase 1 (the western section) of East West Rail connects Oxford and Bicester and was completed in December 2016. Phase 2 will require upgrading the track and signalling equipment between Bicester, Bedford, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes. It will also mean reinstating disused track between Bletchley and Claydon. Phase 2 will extend services from Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury.
“This has to go down as one of the most exciting weeks in the history of East West Rail, with approval to begin major construction of the Western section coming just days after the preferred route between Bedford and Cambridge was announced. East West Rail will transform the way people travel within and across the region, supporting communities, boosting businesses, unlocking job opportunities, and getting people out of their cars. The Consortium and the local authorities along the line will continue to work with Network Rail and its partners to ensure the western section is now delivered as quickly and smoothly as possible.”
The East West Rail Consortium is made up of the local authorities that produced the initial business case for the project.
Phase 1 connects Oxford to Bicester and is part of the western section. Phase 2 is also part of the western section and will extend the project all the way to Phase 3, the central section, which begins at Bedford. Phase 3, the central section, will connect Bedford to Cambridge, thereby restoring rail services between Oxford and Cambridge. The proposal for Phase 3 is currently in development.
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