East West Rail Moves a Step Forward as Funding is Allocated for New Track from Bicester to Bletchley.

East West Rail which is a project aiming to restore rail links between Oxford and Cambridge and on to the East Coast towns of Norwich and Ipswich. It will form a much needed fast public transport link serving the economically important Oxford-Cambridge arc and beyond across the top of our East of England Region.

The 1st phase of the Western Section from Oxford to Bicester Village is already operational. Through trains to London and connecting trains to Birmingham now run via a recently constructed new curve and junction between the existing Bicester North and Haddenham & Thame Parkway stations. This gives access to the Birmingham Moor Street – London Marylebone Main Line.

It is the 2nd Phase of the Western Section that is more important for West Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, and yesterday (23rd January, 2021) the government announced on £760m of funding for the delivery of this next phase of East-West Rail by relaying the track from Bicester to Bletchley, including the rebuilding of the rail flyover in Bletchley and new platforms at the mainline station. This is estimated to mean 1,500 skilled jobs during the phase. When complete, planned for 2025, it will reinstate direct rail services between Bicester and Bletchley for the first time since 1968.

An important part of the 2nd Phase calls for track improvement from the Aylesbury Vale Parkway station to the north of the town centre to Claydon where it will join the Bicester to Bletchley stretch. However there is now some doubt as to whether direct services from Aylesbury to Milton Keynes will be established, due to capacity issues at Milton Keynes station. A connecting service with a change at Bletchley would of course be available in any event.

From Bletchley, Bedford can be reached via the existing Marston Vale Line which calls at both Bedford St Johns, which is convenient for the hospital, and Bedford Midland, which provides a connection to mainline train services between London St Pancras and the North of England via Leicester and Sheffield. The Marston Vale Line is currently served by refurbished former District Line train sets operating in a diesel-electric mode. These trains are designed to be easily modified to battery only mode when charging facilities are installed at the terminus stations.

It is expected that the Marston Vale Line will be rebuilt and the the Central Section will require a completely new railway, on a route yet to be determined, to reach Cambridge. Thereafter two routes will join Cambridge to Norwich and Ipswich using improvements to existing lines.
The completion of this project is expected to reduce road traffic and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the East of England Region.