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.
Thehas 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 East West Railway Company was established in 2017 as a central government non-departmental public arms-length body. The Company is overseeing the delivery of Phase 2 of the western section between Bicester, Milton Keynes and Bedford, and is leading on development of the central section between Bedford and Cambridge.
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.
The western section is being delivered in two phases and involves upgrading a single track branch line and the upgrade of a disused freight only track and a mothballed route abandoned in the early 1970s. Once fully complete, it will allow new passenger services to be introduced from Oxford and Bicester to Milton Keynes or Bedford. It will also provide extra capacity and a new route for freight trains, taking lorries off the road network.
A collaboration between Network Rail and Chiltern Railways and a joint venture led by local companies Carillion and Buckingham Group has already upgraded the railway between Oxford and Bicester.
The upgrade was completed in 2016, and has allowed Chiltern Railways to operate passenger services between Oxford and London Marylebone via Bicester and High Wycombe. It has also included the track and signalling required for the East-West Rail services planned to operate between Oxford, Bedford and Milton Keynes.
Oxford Parkway station (located between Oxford and Kidlington) opened in October 2015 and is easily reached by bus services and road. It includes an 800 space car park and secure cycle parking. It is already the fifth busiest station in Oxfordshire used by 1.1 million people in 2018/19. In future the station will be a transport hub to access the nearby Oxford North urban district development.
Trains to Milton Keynes and Bedford will call at the station once phase 2 of the western section is open.
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 the East West Rail Alliance (made up of Network Rail, Atkins, Laing O’Rourke and Volker Rail).
Preliminary works on the corridor have already taken place. The relevant powers to deliver the main works on the Phase 2 line have been enabled through a Transport and Works Act Order. A public inquiry on this Order was held in April 2019, with a decision by the Secretary of State for Transport to grant the Order made in February 2020.
Main works on this section of East West Rail in Oxfordshire are expected to commence in summer 2020, and will include the provision of construction compounds and the construction of two new bridges across the railway to the east of Bicester.
Queries or concerns about the impact of construction work should be directed to the East West Rail by email:. firstname.lastname@example.org.
The East West Rail Consortium has also proven there is an economic case for extending the railway from Bedford to Cambridge.
The planning for this section of the East West Rail route is now being led by the East West Railway Company. Work is currently focused on identifying a preferred route for this section of East West Rail, and a consultation on route options was held in 2019. It is expected that a decision on a preferred route will be made by central government by the end of 2020.
Delivery of the central section would enable train services to operate between Oxford and Cambridge with the potential for some trains to be extended to Norwich, Ipswich and the Suffolk coast. Further detail on plans for this section is provided on the East West Railway Company website.
Current train services
Two trains per hour in each direction between Oxford and London Marylebone calling at Oxford, Oxford Parkway, Islip (some trains), Bicester Village, Haddenham & Thame Parkway or High Wycombe and London Marylebone.
Proposed train services (subject to confirmation by central government)
Two trains per hour in each direction between Oxford and Milton Keynes calling at Oxford, Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village, Winslow, Bletchley and Milton Keynes.
One train per hour in each direction between Oxford and Bedford calling at Oxford, Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village, Winslow, Bletchley, Woburn Sands, Ridgmont and Bedford.
Chiltern Railways started their new services from Oxford Parkway to London Marylebone in October 2015 and extended them to Oxford in December 2016.
The East West Railway Company is aiming to have phase 2 of the western section opened by the end of 2024, with the central section opening by 2028, but these dates depend on receiving the statutory planning powers and consents and are subject to change.
For more information and the latest news about East -West Rail visit the East West Rail Consortium website.