East West Rail

A strategic railway connecting the Thames Valley with the South East Midlands and East Anglia.

East West Rail is a significant project that will benefit the national economy by establishing a strategic railway connecting the Thames Valley with the South East Midlands and East Anglia.

The East West Rail Consortium has developed and promoted the project since 1995. It brings together local authorities and partners who want to support job creation and economic growth, new homes and better access to the national rail network. They include Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council.

The three Local Enterprise Partnerships in the region – South East Midlands LEP, Oxfordshire LEP and Berkshire Thames Valley LEP – recognise EastWest Rail as an essential infrastructure project to support regional economic growth. It is one of the priority infrastructure investments in the National Infrastructure Plan 2014.

Western Section

The project gained government support announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Autumn Statement 2011. It was subsequently included in the rail industry’s five year investment programme in July 2012, and in Network Rail’s five-year plan published in March 2014.

The local authorities have already committed in excess of £5m towards the project, and have agreed to commit a further £45m. Phase 1 is expected to cost £332 million and Phase two is forecast to cost £402 million, including government funding of £553 million.

The western section involves upgrading an existing single track branch line and the upgrade of a disused freight only track and a mothballed route abandoned in the early 1970s.  It will allow new passenger services to be introduced from Didcot, Oxford and Bicester to London Marylebone, Milton Keynes or Bedford.  It will also provide extra capacity and a new route for freight trains, taking lorries off the road network.

Phase 1

A collaboration between Network Rail and Chiltern Railways has upgraded the railway between Water Eaton, north of Oxford and Bicester, and work is continuing to complete the upgrade into Oxford.

The upgrade will allow Chiltern Railways to operate a new passenger service between Oxford and London Marylebone via Bicester and High Wycombe, but has also included the track and signalling required for the East-West Rail services planned to operate between Oxford, Bedford and Milton Keynes. By combining the two projects they will be delivered more efficiently and with less disruption for rail users.

Oxford Parkway

A new station has been built next to the Water Eaton Park and Ride and the A4165 Oxford Road.

Known as Oxford Parkway it opened in October 2015 and is easily reached from the north of the city and Kidlington. In future the station will be a hub to access the nearby Northern Gateway development.

The station has frequent buses to Kidlington, Summertown and the city centre and a Park & Ride 500 service to Oxford station.  There is an 800 space car park and secure cycle parking.

Chiltern Railways are currently running trains from Oxford Parkway to Bicester and London.  They will be extended to Oxford in spring 2016.

Trains to Milton Keynes and Bedford will stop at the station from 2019.

Construction work has included:

  • a new 1km section of railway to join the Chiltern Mainline
  • widening the existing track bed
  • doubling over 18km of track
  • increasing the speed that trains can travel to 100mph
  • constructing new road bridges and footbridges
  • closing 37 level crossings to improve safety
  • building a new Oxford Parkway station at Water Eaton
  • rebuilding a larger station at Bicester, renamed Bicester Village
  • rebuilding a larger Islip station
  • new signalling

You can find out more about the work taking place and follow progress on the Bicester-to-Oxford Collaboration website.

Phase 2

The second phase will involve upgrading and reconstructing underused or mothballed sections of the old railway between Bicester and Bletchley, Aylesbury and Claydon and Bletchley to Bedford. It will be delivered by Network Rail.

In addition to the core project that was promoted by the Consortium, the government has specified additional requirements, including greater capacity to cater for future demand and electrification as part of a new electric spine.

The rail corridor has been cleared of vegetation and surveys completed to collect data about the topography, ecology, wildlife habitats, environmental impact and structures. Consultants have been appointed to develop the railway design.

Network Rail has completed the first round of public exhibitions and more detailed consultation will be carried out next spring. Network Rail hopes to submit an application to the Secretary of State for Transport in summer 2016 to gain the necessary permissions to carry out the upgrade.

Proposed train services

Oxford - Bicester - London Marylebone

  • Two trains per hour
  • Stopping at Oxford Parkway, Islip (some trains), Bicester Village and either Haddenham & Thame Parkway or High Wycombe
  • Typical journey time: Oxford Parkway to London Marylebone - 55-65 minutes

Reading - Oxford - Milton Keynes

  • One train per hour (part of a half-hourly Reading-Bletchley service)
  • Stopping at Didcot Parkway (for the Enterprise Zones at Science Vale and Didcot Growth Accelerator), Culham, Oxford, Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village, Winslow and Bletchley
  • Indicative journey time: Oxford to Milton Keynes - 40 minutes

Reading - Oxford - Bedford

  • One train per hour (part of a half-hourly Reading-Bletchley service)
  • Stopping at Didcot Parkway (for the Enterprise Zones at Science Vale and Didcot Growth Accelerator), Oxford, Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village, Winslow, Bletchley, Woburn Sands and Ridgmont
  • Indicative journey time: Oxford to Bedford - 60 minutes

East West Rail services will offer two trains per hour between Didcot and Bletchley, and connect the three main centres of growth in Oxfordshire, at Didcot, Oxford and Bicester.

It will provide opportunities for Oxfordshire residents to travel north using the West Coast Mainline at Milton Keynes Central, or to the East Midlands at Bedford, without going into London.

When is it happening

Chiltern Railways started its new service from Oxford Parkway to Bicester and London in October 2015.  This is expected to be extended into Oxford in spring 2015 once upgrade work through the Wolvercote Tunnel and in north Oxford is completed.

Network Rail is re-planning all enhancement projects that were due to be delivered before 2019 as a result of escalating costs on major enhancement schemes, and is looking at affordability and deliverability. The East West Rail Consortium is working with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to stress the critical importance of East West Rail to the local, regional and national economy, and still expects the western section to open with services to Milton Keynes and Bedford by the end of 2019.

Central Section

The Consortium has also proven there is an economic case for extending the railway from Bedford to Cambridge.

In parallel with the more advanced work on the Western Section, Network Rail has been working to identify a route to extend the Western Section of East West Rail to Cambridge, allowing it to connect with the East Coast Main Line. This would enable train services to operate between Oxford and Cambridge and potentially onto Norfolk and Suffolk.

Two potential corridors have been identified, via Hitchin or Sandy. Network Rail will evaluate these corridors further to identify a single preferred corridor. An assessment of detailed route options in that corridor will then be completed.

More information

For more information and latest news about East-West Rail go to the East West Rail Consortium website. You can also follow the project on Twitter @eastwestrail.

Staff from the East West Rail Consortium can attend local meetings and community events to keep you informed and are happy to discuss the project and answer any questions.


Caryl Jones, East West Rail Communications Manager 07785 927210 or caryl.jones@bedford.gov.uk.