The huge rail project to link Oxford with Cambridge and East Anglia could be funded outside Network Rail’s budget control periods, a key figure has claimed.
Patrick O’Sullivan, rail consultant at project promoter East West Rail, told delegates at New Civil Engineer’s 2017 Transport conference in London this week that the scheme could get its own pot of money.
While the eastern section infrastructure is already in place, and the central phase is still in development, work has started on the western section of East West Rail, involving upgrading and re-constructing existing and mothballed sections of lines between Oxford and Bedford, the section between Bicester and Bletchley is pictured.
Funding for the western section of East West Rail was initially identified within Control Period 5 (CP5), which runs from 2014 to 2019. But following an overhaul of the rail enhancement programme two years ago, this phase of the project was rescheduled for completion by 2024.
O’Sullivan said this week: “We have heard that East West Rail could be funded outside the five-year control periods, so it would then not be linked to that five-year cycle. That’s hot off the press.”
Transport secretary Chris Grayling commissioned former Chiltern Railways managing director Rob Brighouse to identify how the second phase of the Western Section could best be delivered.
“A report [on the western section] is on the secretary of state’s desk as I speak and he has the options about what he is going to build and how much it is going to cost,” said O’Sullivan this week. “We are expecting a decision before the summer recess in July.”
He added that progress was being made on the tricky Bedford-to-Cambridge part of the project, which will require some new build work.
“By the autumn budget we should have an outline route and outline business case for the central section.”