First glimpse of the new East West Rail track in Milton Keynes

The Bletchley to Bicester line is due to open next year
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Track laying is nearly finished along first connection stage of East West Rail (EWR) that will enable passengers to travel between Oxford and Milton Keynes for the first time for 50 years.

A state-of-the art New Track Construction (NTC) train, one of only two in the country, is laying the track between Bletchley and Bicester and has just completed its 58th and final shift.

Passenger services on the line are due to begin in 2025 along the 66km stretch, which was once the old Varsity line.

The new EWR track between Bletchley and Bicester is nearing completionThe new EWR track between Bletchley and Bicester is nearing completion
The new EWR track between Bletchley and Bicester is nearing completion

Work to complete the new high-level platforms at Bletchley is also progressing well. Cladding is being installed to the exterior of the station building, whilst the footbridge and accessible lift linking two new platforms to the main station are also now in place.

The biggest part of the project was replacing the old Bletchley flyover, a reinforced concrete railway viaduct built in the 1960s.

Instead of replacing the old flyover like-for-like, which would involve closing the West Coast main line below to build five supporting columns in between the tracks, East West Rail project engineers used modern methods of construction to build a massive box structure.

This week Mark Cuzner, East West Rail Alliance Director, said: “Thanks to the combined efforts of the entire team the project is in a healthy position to complete the final section of track installation in the new year, to allow installation of the railway systems before testing of the new railway later in 2024.”

The NTC train uses an automated track laying system which is faster than using conventional track laying methods and can lay up to 1km of new track a day. Use of the NTC train has also helped to remove around 4,000 lorry journeys from local roads during the construction period.

Once open, this section of line will provide direct passenger services between Oxford, Bletchley and Milton Keynes for the first time in over 50 years.

This phase of the project is being delivered by the East West Rail Alliance, which was appointed by Network Rail to construct the Bicester to Bletchley section of new railway.