£760m to support the next phase of East West Rail

Councillor Sue Clark, chair of the East West Rail Consortium, and a Central Bedfordshire Council ward councillor for Cranfield and Marston Moretaine, said that the Consortium has welcomed the Government announcement of £760 million to support the new East West Rail line connecting communities between Oxford and Cambridge.

The funding is for part of the line between Oxford and Bletchley/Milton Keynes. This section of East West Rail is expected to be up and running by 2025. Cllr Clark said:

“We welcome the Government’s continued commitment to delivering East West Rail. Today’s announcement means that in just a few years’ time, we will see the first East West Rail services from Oxford to Bletchley and Milton Keynes – a milestone worth celebrating.

“We look forward to having confirmation that Milton Keynes-Aylesbury and Bletchley-Bedford will also be delivered as soon as possible. While each section brings its own benefits to the communities it serves, East West Rail’s full transformational potential will only be realised if it is delivered in full.

“We will continue to press the case for the investment in these two sections by working with the East West Railway Company to ensure that their proposals meet the requirements of users and communities for the decades to come. And we will continue to press the Government for an early decision on the investment that will allow those sections to be delivered as soon as possible.”

East West Rail is to be built in three stages

The East West Railway Company (EWR Co) said the delivery of this stage of the project is expected to provide work for 1,500 people, injecting an estimated £1.1bn pounds into the local economy.

It added that the new rail connections will provide opportunities for people right across the area by:

  • Making it cheaper, easier and quicker to get around in the future – connecting people to their jobs, homes and families, as well as businesses to their employees, suppliers and customers
  • Supporting new housing so people can afford to live and work in the area, and businesses can afford to create more jobs and increase productivity

EWR Co also said that East West Rail will help the local economy to:

  • Make places more appealing for people wanting to start and grow businesses – attracting and retaining the best talent in the region, while encouraging new investment to support the economy
  • Spreading prosperity across the UK – creating growth for towns and cities outside of London. The National Infrastructure Commission estimated that creating these transport links and supporting the area between Oxford and Cambridge was worth nearly £80bn extra each year for the British economy

Simon Blanchflower CBE, chief executive officer at East West Railway Company, said:

“We are delighted that the Government has made this significant investment decision for East West Rail and the Oxford Cambridge Arc. This means we can now get on with the construction work and connect communities who live on the East West Rail route.

“We are committed to improving connectivity across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and fully recognise our responsibility to ensure that the railway is delivered in a way that minimises disruption, supports the regional economy, maximises benefits and supports jobs across the region.”

EWR Co has confirmed project will now be delivered in three “Connection Stages”:

Connection Stage One: Oxford to Bletchley and Milton Keynes

Connection Stage Two: Oxford to Bedford

Connection Stage Three: Oxford to Cambridge

Upgrading Bedford Station and the section between Bletchley to Bedford

This Connection Stage is about creating a connection for two trains an hour between Oxford and Bedford, which can then be extended to Cambridge in later stages.

Some works on this section were previously proposed and consented as part of the Western Section, but they are not sufficient to run a reliable 2 tph service to Bedford. Or extend the service to Cambridge. EWR Co said it is looking to deliver the full Oxford-Cambridge service, and this is going to require “significantly more investment” than envisaged by Network Rail for the Western Section. This includes the remodelling of Bedford Station.

EWR Co said it is looking at upgrade options, and the best way to deliver the upgrade required. It will put forward proposals as part of the consultation in early 2021 and submit its funding bid to Government for the construction of this section of East West Rail in the 2021 Spending Review.