A consortium behind the East West Rail project says it is confident that it will get the go-ahead in October following a meeting with transport secretary Chris Grayling on Monday.
Joint Delivery Board for the Western Section chairman Mark Shaw said it was called in to a meeting with Grayling on Monday where the transport secretary confirmed that he was keen to get the line running by 2021.
East West rail will link Oxford, Cambridge and East Anglia. At New Civil Engineer’s Transport 2017 conference last month Patrick O’Sullivan, rail consultant at project promoter East West Rail, told delegates that the scheme could get its own pot of money.
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.
Shaw said a mechanism for funding needed to be organised but the transport secretary was keen to get construction going on the project by next year - although work has already been completed on a section around Oxford and there has been some work along other areas.
“If you look at recent history timescales had been falling back into the mid 2020s and we were very keen to get this delivered as soon as possible so clearly that’s music to our ears,” said Shaw.
”I think the key to getting it delivered as soon as possible is freeing up how we fund the delivery of it so we’re not reliant on funding through Network Rail,” he added.
Shaw confirmed that Grayling is looking at developing a stand alone company. The line is not just a project of the Department for Transport, local councils have put money in too, including Buckinghamshire where Shaw is a councillor.
”We look forward to having that ability to go out for private investment, so that we can actually get on and get this delivered because we’ve spent a lot of time talking about it and not delivering it, now’s the time to get it delivered,” he said.
Although a section at Oxford has been completed, Shaw said there was “irritation” that plans ”had gone quiet” after that.
”With Chris Grayling we very much get the attitude that he’s keen to get it delivered, wants to see it delivered and wants to give us the mechanism to get it delivered and that’s quite a strong message.”