New proposals bring East West Rail Oxford-Cambridge rail service one step closer

East West Railway Company has published its East West Rail update which details plans to bring investment to the Oxford and Cambridge region.

east west rail

Train services connecting Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge have moved a step closer as East West Railway Company (EWR Co) published its latest proposals for East West Rail (EWR). The EWR update is part of a wider government announcement about plans to bolster the UK’s position as a global science superpower. This announcement recognises that delivering this new line is critical to improving connections between UK science powerhouses Oxford and Cambridge and will bring more investment to the region.

Construction of the railway between Bicester and Bletchley is already well underway and track-laying passed the halfway mark before passenger services between Oxford and Milton Keynes begin in 2025. Plans for the rest of the route have been updated following feedback from the second non-statutory public consultation with local people, which has been analysed alongside environmental and technical studies. The updated proposals include:

  • A route alignment that best serves the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, which is an unparalleled centre for life sciences of global importance and home to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. This route – which takes a southern approach into Cambridge – is more likely to unlock the region’s potential for transformational economic growth and create jobs, attract investment and support the UK economic recovery
  • A new station near Tempsford, connecting the new section of railway between Bedford and Cambridge with the East Coast Main Line that would encourage economic growth in the area
  • Faster travel for job opportunities and more, slashing travel times by up to 40 minutes for people living in Bedford who want to travel to Cambridge or Milton Keynes
  • Trains every 20 minutes on Marston Vale Line, which would mean a three-fold increase in services per hour between Bletchley and Bedford
  • A new station for Bedford Hospital, making life easier for NHS staff, patients and visitors
  • A preferred route into Bedford station, supporting local aspirations for more jobs, prosperity and growth
  • Protecting the reliability of existing services using the busy Midland Main Line by proposing two additional tracks alongside the existing Midland Main Line north of Bedford, which is formally designated as ‘congested infrastructure’
  • Reducing the number of homes being impacted in Bedford by a third, through further work to challenge the design
  • Keeping connections at London Road level crossing in Bicester with new opportunities identified following community feedback
  • Significant reductions to the need for and height of embankments and viaducts following consultation feedback
  • Setting out an updated strategic case for investing in EWR which considers ways of delivering the benefits of EWR at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

“People deserve access to public transport wherever they live, and EWR is a once in a generation opportunity to open up new journeys, cut travel times, ease congestion on local roads and bring more jobs within reach of people living locally,” Beth West, CEO of EWR Co, said. “Six of the world’s top pharmaceutical companies have a presence in the Cambridge biomedical cluster, with six of them located in South Cambridgeshire. By connecting Cambridge – and particularly Cambridge South – with communities further west, EWR will unlock growth across the region and – given the global opportunity at the Biomedical Campus – for the whole of the UK too. Quick, reliable public transport linking Oxford and Cambridge continues to have widespread local support and our updated proposals have been shaped by the hundreds of conversations we’ve had with local people, businesses and other stakeholders and the thousands of responses we received to our most recent public consultation.”

The new railway connecting Oxford with Milton Keynes and Cambridge will open up new journeys for local communities, including key interchanges with the West Coast Mainline, Midland Mainline and East Coast Mainline. It will also shorten east-west travel times and unlock new opportunities for businesses in the area, providing access to a wider pool of talent and the space to expand.

“We believe that connecting up two of the world’s leading life science clusters, Cambridge and Oxford, has the potential to provide significant improvements to healthcare and be a key component in delivering the Government’s science superpower ambitions,” Dr Kristin-Anne Rutter, Executive Director for Cambridge Biomedical Campus Ltd, said. “Along with the building of the new Cambridge South station, it will also greatly enhance the sustainability of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, by encouraging more staff and visitors to arrive by public transport.”

“Connectivity between Oxford, Cambridge and the towns in between is vital to opening up the flow of talented people, innovation and investment needed to secure the UK’s position as a global science supercluster,” Dr Andy Williams, Chair for Oxford-Cambridge Supercluster Board, said. “This Government announcement and the updated East West Rail route will boost business confidence in the region taking us one step further towards transforming the Arc into a global science destination fit to compete with other superclusters like Silicon Valley.”

Further feasibility and technical assessments are currently underway and will be presented for feedback along with the updated route proposals during the next phase of public consultation, which EWR Co expects to take place in the first half of 2024. Services between Milton Keynes and Oxford are expected to be running by 2025.

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