Milton Keynes business group urges Government to accelerate East West Rail project

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A group representing thousands of Milton Keynes workers believe the transport boost is essential to the city’s economy

An association representing businesses in Milton Keynes has urged the Government to accelerate the East West Rail Project (EWR).

Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce Group believes the additional transport links are essential to increasing demand for local businesses.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But a new report into the project, which is forecast to cost between £6-7 billion, says it’s ‘unclear’ how the benefits of the project will be achieved.

Workers put the final touches on the new rail track at Bletchley this summerWorkers put the final touches on the new rail track at Bletchley this summer
Workers put the final touches on the new rail track at Bletchley this summer

Independent public spending watchdog – the National Audit Office (NAO) – has examined EWR’s and the Department for Transport’s (DfT) assessment of its benefits and costs. Residents surveyed as part of the report were also said to be unhappy with how EWR has engaged with them.

In a statement about the report – which was published on Wednesday (13 December) – the NAO said DfT’s cost-benefit analysis suggested the costs of the project may outweigh the benefits. However, it added these assessments do not quantify the benefit from the wider aims of the project to transform the economy of the region, adding “there is a strong strategic case for the project”.

The report concluded: “As with many transport projects, the rationale for East West Rail does not rest on the strength of the benefit-cost ratio for the project alone - which is poor - but on its wider strategic aim of overcoming constraints to economic growth in the Oxford-Cambridge region.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Read More
Councillor funds Christmas fundraiser for Milton Keynes Hospital Charity project

However, Milton Keynes Chamber, which represents over 32,000 employees, says EWR is vital to creating more jobs and providing a boost to the city’s economy.

Louise Wall, CEO of Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce, said: “Milton Keynes is a thriving and growing business hub with great access to leisure activities, yet is constrained by the existing transport network and a lack of space for businesses to expand. This is preventing people from accessing job opportunities and limiting inward investment.

“It’s imperative that Bletchley and Milton Keynes are connected to the full route of East West Rail and that this transformational project gets delivered as quickly as possible to drive local and national growth. This project is an essential catalyst to a wealth of benefits and has our strong support.”

As a recently developed area and new city, Milton Keynes has one of the highest start-up rates in the UK, but the chamber believes this has led to some overcrowding. Analysis from the group states that a number of job vacancies are low skilled and low paid, transport costs are high and the city lacks academic networks to expand further without extra transport links.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A spokesperson for East West Railway Company said: “As we’ve said, and as the NAO makes clear, not all of these benefits are captured in the conventional benefit-cost ratio (BCR), and therefore it is essential that we work closely with partners in Government and locally to make sure these benefits are delivered for the communities that we serve. The report acknowledges that we are already doing so, but also makes clear that more needs to be done. We welcome that – and are committed to working with Government to take forward the NAO’s recommendations.”