Why is East West Rail important?
The vibrant mix of communities between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge are fantastic places to live and work. But people are being let down by a lack of environmentally sustainable, safe and affordable transport in the area.
East West Rail is set to deliver these much-needed connections. Linking communities to job opportunities, access to new homes and everyday connections with family and friends.
Connection Stage 1: Oxford to Bletchley/Milton Keynes
In the November 2020 Spending Review, the Government committed to investment for the infrastructure on East West Rail between Bicester and Bletchley. This commitment means we can build on work already started by the East West Rail Alliance at Winslow station and Bletchley flyover, as they begin to construct the new railway.
Our aim is to have trains running between Oxford and Milton Keynes by 2025. But we are very clear – we will not introduce a service that would be unreliable for our passengers, or cause delays elsewhere on the railway. For that reason, we are working with Network Rail and DfT to demonstrate that this service will be reliable from day one..
In the worst case, it may be that we need to introduce the service to Bletchley first and then extend it to Milton Keynes, once we have proved it will run on time. We would rather be transparent about that now, so people know what we are working hard to achieve.
We continue to explore options on how to connect Aylesbury with our colleagues in the Department for Transport and Network Rail. The original plans would not have provided local communities with a reliable service, and this section requires more investment than originally planned. There is further work to do to demonstrate to Government that this connection represents the best value for money for taxpayers.
Connection Stage 2: Oxford to Bedford
This Connection Stage is about creating a reliable connection for two trains an hour from Oxford to Bedford – which can then be extended to Cambridge in later Connection Stages.
Some works on this section were previously proposed and consented as part of the Western Section, but they are not sufficient to run a reliable 2 tph service to Bedford, let alone extend that service to Cambridge. EWR Co are looking at this holistically, to deliver a full Oxford to Cambridge train service, and that is going to require significantly more investment than envisaged by Network Rail for the Western Section – including the remodelling of Bedford Station.
Our ambition is to get trains up and running from Oxford to Bedford as quickly as possible, so we’re looking at upgrade options, and the best way to deliver the upgrade required. We’ll put forward proposals as part of the consultation in early 2021 and submit our funding bid to Government for the construction of this section of East West Rail in the 2021 Spending Review.
Connection Stage 3: Oxford to Cambridge
This is the final connection stage of the East West Rail project and completes the train journey from Oxford to Cambridge.
In January 2020, we shared the preferred route option from Bedford to Cambridge with you, which identifies the broad geographical area the line will run through. You can find further details of that announcement on our Bedford to Cambridge page.
We are currently identifying potential route alignments for the new railway from Bedford to Cambridge that are needed to deliver Connection Stage 3 and will consult with local communities on these proposals in early 2021.