Video shows major works almost complete at new East West Rail line in Milton Keynes

The stretch will link Bletchley to Bicester
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A video this week shows how the first stage of the £5bn East West Rail project connecting Oxford to Cambridge is nearing completion.

The first stage of the major infrastructure project to link Bletchley to Bicester with a 21 mile stretch along the old Varsity line started in 2020 and it was estimated to cost £760m.

Phase two will create direct connections between Oxford and Bletchley/Milton Keynes for the first time in more than 50 years. It will link communities across the area, bringing faster journey times and easing pressure on local roads.

Workers put the final touches on the new rail track at BletchleyWorkers put the final touches on the new rail track at Bletchley
Workers put the final touches on the new rail track at Bletchley

The work is being carried out by the East West Rail Alliance, which says everything is on schedule to be finished by the middle of 2024.

The video shows how Bletchley station has been revamped with new platforms and tracks. But 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.

The move saved them millions of pounds. It meant the West Coast main line - which is one of the busiest mixed-use passenger and freight railway routes in Europe - did not have to be closed while the flyover replacement took place becasue as the box structure provided a protective, physical barrier.

A new flyover has been built at BletchleyA new flyover has been built at Bletchley
A new flyover has been built at Bletchley

Engineers now hope the new flyover will last for 120 years with minimal future maintenance required.

East West Rail Alliance project director Mark Cuzner said this week: "The earthworks and the bridges are all finished. We've done most of the landscaping and fencing work, so overall it's about 75 to 85% complete."

The EWR Alliance was established in 2015 and consists of four partners: Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, Network Rail and VolkerRail.

East West Rail Phase 2 aims to transform connectivity and journey times across the heart of the country, boost economic growth and create opportunities for new housing and jobs

It will also encourage people out of cars and onto public transport and provide a greener low carbon transport system, say rail bosses.