Network Rail has submitted its final East-West Rail phase 2 proposals to the Department for Transport which could see work on the new line start next year.
Phase 2 of the western section is proposed to extend services from Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury.
Plans include bringing a section of railway between Bletchley and Claydon Junction back into service after being mothballed for some 30 years, as well as major signalling and track upgrades along the route.
Network Rail said work could begin as early as next year if the plans to construct the new phase were approved by the government through a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO).
The scheme is part of the wider East West Rail project to connect Cambridge to Oxford which is being built in stages. The first phase of the western section, between Oxford and Bicester was completed in December 2016.
A central section, phase 3, is currently in development and will fully reconnect Cambridge to Oxford.
The proposed works will see major improvements to local travel, with the phased introduction of new rail journeys between:
- Oxford and Milton Keynes, with trains stopping at Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow and Bletchley
- Oxford and Bedford, with trains stopping at Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow, Bletchley, Woburn Sands and Ridgmont
- Milton Keynes and Aylesbury, with trains stopping at Bletchley, Winslow and Aylesbury Vale Parkway
East west rail phase 1 and 2 3to2
The project has had a tumultuous history.
In 2015, the scheme hit the buffers when its funding from the government was cut. However, a body set up to deliver the project, the East West Railway Company, subsequently cut £500M from its projected £1.5bn price tag rejuvenating its prospects.
In February this year, transport and housing bodies joined forces to lobby government on the strategic needs of the corridor.
The East West Railway company – the company set up by transport secretary Chris Grayling to cut costs and time from the construction programme. The company is chaired by Rob Brighouse.
The East West Rail Consortium – The consortium was started in 1995 by a group of local authorities and businesses with an interest in improving access to and from East Anglia and the Milton Keynes South Midlands growth area. This includes the Joint Delivery Board for the Western Section chaired by Mark Shaw.
The East West Rail Alliance – The group which will build the railway containing Network Rail and its private sector partners.
All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) – Set up in February 2018 to lobby government on the strategic needs of the corridor and replaced APPG East West Rail, shifting the focus onto the wider, overarching needs of the area. Chaired by Iain Stewart.