East West Rail moves a step closer for Milton Keynes after major route announcement in updated proposals

Community information event on £5 billion project to be held in Woburn Sands on June 30
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Train services between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge have moved a step closer today with the announcement of the latest route for East West Rail (EWR).

Changes to the Marston Vale Line that will reduce disruption for passengers are among the key updates outlined in the EWR Route Update Report.

The EWR update is part of a wider government announcement about plans to bolster the UK’s position as a global science superpower. The 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.

Map shows the proposed East West Rail route announced today (26/5)Map shows the proposed East West Rail route announced today (26/5)
Map shows the proposed East West Rail route announced today (26/5)

Construction of the railway between Bicester and Bletchley is already under way and track-laying passed the halfway mark earlier this year 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 which has been analysed alongside environmental and technical studies.

The updated proposals include:

> Trains every 20 minutes on Marston Vale Line (MVL): a change in service frequency that allows us to maintain the benefits of EWR and requires less construction work to upgrade the line. This will reduce disruption to local communities and passengers, as well as cut costs – and will mean a three-fold increase in services per hour on the MVL.

> Line speeds capped at below 100mph: capping the line speed below the 100mph originally proposed in 2021, but above the current speed of 60mph. This would reduce disruption in residential areas, but still provide a faster service than currently available.

> Retaining some level crossings: Combined with the updated view on service frequency, the lower line speed means that some level crossings – for example at Woburn Sands and Lidlington – could still meet the appropriate safety standards and so could be retained. This would be one of the many ways to maintain local connectivity across and between communities.

Beth West, CEO, EWR Co, said: “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.

“Quick, reliable public transport linking Milton Keynes with 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.”

A series of public drop-in events are being held to provide opportunities to find out more about the updated proposals including at the Summerlin Centre, Woburn Sands, on June 30 and Lidlington Village Hall on July 4. hey will be held between 2pm and 8pm.

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 journey times and unlock new opportunities for businesses in the area, providing access to a wider pool of talent and the space to expand. EWR Co is continuing to explore options on how to connect Aylesbury, in discussion with colleagues in the Department for Transport and Network Rail.

Steve Salvin, Chief Executive, Aiimi, said: “Connecting Milton Keynes in both directions to Oxford and Cambridge will be a game-changer for businesses struggling to recruit more highly skilled people and opening up more job opportunities for people in the region. The new East West Rail line will expand opportunities for collaboration, allowing local businesses to grow and thrive, turning the vision of the UK as a tech and science powerhouse into a reality.”

Further feasibility and technical assessments are currently under way 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.

Published alongside the Route Update Report are:

The Consultation Feedback Report – which outlines the feedback received to the 2021 public consultation, the responses to the matters that were raised and how these have been taken into consideration

Economic and Technical Report – which considers the strategic case for investing in EWR and ways of delivering the benefits of EWR at a lower cost to the taxpayer

Need to Sell Property Scheme – we’ve launched the Need to Sell Property Scheme, which has been developed following consultation feedback to provide support to eligible property owners who have a compelling reason to sell their property but are unable to do so except at a substantially reduced value because of EWR.

Rail Minister, Huw Merriman said: “The delivery of East West Rail continues to move at pace and today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to improving travel and supporting economic growth between the historic, thriving cities of Oxford and Cambridge.

“This major railway line is expected to not only boost local economies but also, slash journey times and transform rail travel for passengers in and around the region for generations to come.”

Further details on the new proposals can be found here

> East West Railway Company (EWR Co) was set up by the Secretary of State for Transport in 2018 to develop East West Rail, a railway with customers and communities at its core.