£760m funding for Cambridge to Oxford railway line
David Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter and Louise Hepburn
- Credit: Network Rail
A £760m fund will be spent to break ground on a new railway link between Oxford and Cambridge.
The cash from the Department of Transport will be used to lay track along a disused railway line between Bicester and Bletchley with services beginning in 2025.
The East-West Rail project could be completed by the end of the decade.
Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris added that it may also mean that the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway remains ‘paused for a very long time’ if people ‘vote with their feet’ and choose to use trains to travel instead of private cars.
The Expressway project was paused as part of the Government’s budget in Spring 2020.
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The Government said rail works between Bicester and Bletchley are expected to create 1,500 jobs and inject £1.1bn into the local economy.
Work will include the construction of a new station at Winslow, as well as enhancements to existing stations along the route, including Bletchley.
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By 2025, two trains per hour will run between Oxford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley it is claimed.
Mr Heaton- Harris acknowledged the overall project was on an ‘ambitious timetable’.
According to Mr Heaton Harris a second section of track could be laid between Bletchley and Bedford by 2028, and the final stretch be completed by ‘the end of the decade.’
As part of the Government’s new funding commitments announced today, £34m will also be spent on upgrading the Northumberland Line between Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Ashington.
Mr Heaton Harris said the Witney to Oxford line, long promoted as a potential commuter branch line, would be ideal for this fund.
The minister said: “One of my fellow transport ministers [Robert Courts] is the MP for Witney and he never ceases to bend my ear about the benefits that project would bring.”
He added: “That is exactly the sort of thing we are looking at, areas where we can make a difference with not too big sums of money.”
The rail route between Oxford and Cambridge was traditionally known as the ‘Varsity Line’.
The new East-West Rail scheme also aims to extend services beyond the two cities to Norwich.
The project has had a very long history, having been initiated originally by Ipswich Borough Council in 1995.
The Government first adopted and started funding the project in 2011 under the then-Chancellor George Osborne.