East West Rail Map Image:East West Railway Company Ltd

The East West Railway Company (EWR Co) is encouraging people from towns and villages between Oxford, Bedford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge to take part in the next phase of public consultation.

It said the comments and ideas received will feed into the design, construction and operation of this rail scheme. Adding that it could provide people from communities across the area with new connections to family, friends, jobs, education and leisure activities

Key areas of focus for the consultation, launched on 31 March 2021 include:

  • How to ensure that communities around Bletchley and the Marston Vale Line would get the most from significant investment in their railway line
  • Five route alignment options for the section of East West Rail between Bedford and Cambridge, including an emerging preference for a station at Cambourne North
  • Options for new stations at Bedford and Bedford St Johns and their supporting infrastructure
  • How Oxford Station and its supporting infrastructure could be improved – including Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village stations
  • Options for avoiding lengthy periods of delay at the London Road level crossing, Bicester
  • Plans for improving customer experience through better station design and more timely travel information

EWR Co is presenting developing plans for a new Bedford St Johns Station nearer to the hospital, and a complete redevelopment of Bedford Station itself.

The new railway would provide local people with connectivity east and west, with direct journeys to Cambridge predicted to take 35 minutes.

East West Railway Company Chief Executive, Simon Blanchflower CBE, said:

“This rail link is vital to the future prosperity of the region so we ask people to encourage their friends, relatives and colleagues to get involved in the consultation so they can help us to bring the right connections to all of the communities who live and work in the Oxford Cambridge Arc.

“In developing these proposals, our team has focused on how we can minimise disruption to local communities and looked for ways we can protect and enhance the local environment. Now it’s time for communities to share their valuable local knowledge and ideas with us.”

Feedback is also being sought on five proposed route alignments, connecting existing stations in Bedford and Cambridge with new stations serving communities in Cambourne and the area around Sandy and St Neots.

This route was the favourite among people who responded to the initial public consultation held in 2019 and EWR Co said it was found to provide the most benefits for every £ of taxpayers’ money spent.

It was also found to best support community aspirations for sustainability, environmental protection and increasing biodiversity.

Hilary Chipping, chief executive at the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP), said:

“The East West Rail will be an important piece of infrastructure that will unlock significant economic potential for the South East Midlands. The development will connect communities across Bedford and Milton Keynes, enabling new options for jobs and housing, while enhancing travel links across the Oxford to Cambridge Arc.

“At SEMLEP, we strive for an innovative, resilient and inclusive economy. As highlighted in our Local Industrial Strategy, transport infrastructure plays an important role in realising this in accordance with net-zero ambitions. With the launch of this consultation, we urge people to have their say on the final shape of this critical project.”

East West Railway Company will mail a summary of the consultation to 270,000 addresses along the route and will be holding a series of online events for communities and stakeholders.

There will be community events, live-chat sessions with EWR Co’s team of experts and an interactive virtual consultation room, launching on 12 April 2021.

The company will also be publishing proposals for a discretionary purchase scheme. The Need to Sell Scheme sets out how the company would intend to support people whose sale of their home or small business may be directly affected by proposals set out in an announcement of a preferred route alignment. These proposals are also being consulted on.

The consultation launch follows the recent £760 million investment announcement by Government, which will fund construction of the East West Rail line between Oxford and Bletchley/Milton Keynes and is the first time the entire route has been drawn together in a single consultation.

To take part, visit East West Rail Consultation