As we are getting a lot of questions about it, we thought that it would be best to set up a brand new section of our website dedicated to keeping you up-to-date with the latest goings-on on the East West Rail Project. I should stress at the start that this won’t be a statement of support or opposition to the scheme, just purely for information and the latest as we get it, including how you can get involved.
For those who are wondering ‘what on Earth is East-West Rail?’, luckily for you we have a little introduction for you.
East West Rail is a major project to establish a strategic railway connecting East Anglia with Central, Southern and Western England. The complete East West Rail scheme comprises a strategic rail route that will link Ipswich, Norwich and Cambridge, with Letchworth, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Bicester and Oxford, allowing connections to Swindon, the Thames Valley, South West England and South Wales, together with a spur to Aylesbury. The core of the project consists of re-opening the railway, the former Varsity Line, between Oxford and Cambridge.
The East-West Rail Consortium website is the best place to find out everything you want to know about the scheme.
What’s happened recently
Recently, the Western Section (Bedford to Oxford) was given quite a big boost. In November 2011, Chancellor George Osborne announced that up to £550 million will be put towards the project, dependant on a sound business case and a contribution from the local authorities of up to £50 million. This was then confirmed in the Government’s Higher Level Output Statement, which will look to deliver the whole scheme by 2019.
The East-West Rail Western Section involves re-opening the line, and upgrading the existing lines, between Oxford and Bletchley, and electrifying the railway between Bedford and Oxford, including our line, to form part of the planned ‘Electric Spine’. For our line, clearly work will need to be undertaken on such things as level crossings and to put in any electric wires. But at the present time we simply do not have the detail. This is currently being worked on.
Where we are at now
As we said, for our line the plans are less certain, and there certainly is no detail on what exact improvements are planned for our infrastructure and services. What we do know is that our line is planned to be electrified, there will need to be upgrades to the infrastructure (such as crossings), and that Network Rail are working on the detail.
For the planned services, once again nothing is set in stone. But the East-West Rail Western Section Prospectus is being used as a starting point. That includes retaining our current service, and overlaying it with a semi-fest Bedford to Oxford service, serving Bletchley, Woburn Sands, and Lidlington.
The current plan is to look at starting any services on East-West Rail in 2017, in our case using diesel trains. Any infrastructure upgrades to our line will be done by 2019 at the latest.
Once again, we must stress that none of these plans are finalised, and we will let you know more once we know it. In the meantime, if you want to know more more, contact the East-West Rail Consortium for more.