East West Rail is a once in a generation opportunity to connect communities between Oxford and Cambridge with jobs, education and opportunities.
The vibrant communities between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge blend beautiful landscapes and a rich cultural heritage with globally renowned centres of education, technology and an increasingly dynamic business scene.
While it’s a fantastic place to live and work, the lack of good east-west transport links limits the ability for local residents to enjoy everything the area has to offer. From easier commutes to days out with friends and family – East West Rail will make it easier to reach the things that matter most.
Improve quality of life
Affordable, reliable and faster public transport will mean less time spent in traffic and less carbon emitted from congestion, improving the quality of life for local people. It will also mean people can choose to live more affordably and have more space within an easy commute, rather than paying premium house prices to live close to work as many do today.
Cut travel times
East-west public transport is currently limited to a coach service, which takes 1 hour 50 minutes between Oxford and Milton Keynes at peak times and the bus journey between Bedford to Cambridge takes up to one and a half hours. With EWR, these journey times could be cut to 45 minutes from Oxford to Milton Keynes and would take 35 minutes between Bedford and Cambridge.
Ease pressure on the area’s congested roads
Despite being a short distance apart, journeys from towns such as Milton Keynes and Bedford to Oxford and Cambridge take a long time because of congested roads and the lack of public transport. By offering rail travel as an alternative, EWR can help to ease traffic on local roads by reducing people’s reliance on cars. It will also give people more choice, offering more sustainable ways to travel and opportunities to relax or work while travelling.
Open up new journeys
EWR will offer new journeys to local communities because of its key intersections with most of the UK’s main rail lines – including the East Coast Main Line, Midland Main Line and West Coast Main Line – making it easier to get from Milton Keynes to Leeds or Cambridge to Manchester, as well as improved connections to international airports at Luton and Stansted.
Provide a greener way to travel
Travelling by rail is more environmentally friendly than by road, reducing emissions by up to 76% compared to taking the car. EWR will be a new, environmentally sustainable way to travel across the region, and the aim is to become a net zero-carbon railway.
Bring more jobs within reach of local people
It currently takes nearly an hour to travel just 9 miles from Cambourne to Cambridge in the morning rush hour. EWR will reduce this to just 15 minutes. Bedford and Cambridge will be just 35 minutes apart, so EWR will massively expand the number of people within commuting distance of high quality jobs in the region.
Delivering the line between Oxford and Bletchley/Milton Keynes is expected to directly employ 980 people and support around another 500 in the wider supply chain, bringing around £1.1bn into the local economy in 2021/22. And that’s before the job opportunities that will open up for local people when these areas are connected.
Open up new areas for businesses to grow
Oxford and Cambridge are bursting at the seams. Connecting them with the fast-growing and less constrained towns and cities in between, like Milton Keynes and Bedford, will make places more appealing for people wanting to start and grow all types of businesses. It will help attract and retain the best talent in the region and bring businesses closer to their supply chains, research sectors, competitors and other sectors, creating wealth and jobs for an area of over 3.8m people.
Supported by local communities, authorities and employers
Support for East West Rail is high, with over 70% of local residents surveyed in early 2022 supporting a public transport connection between Oxford and Cambridge. There are lots of different reasons why people are in favour of the rail link. From being within easy reach of jobs, education and vital public services to simply staying close to family and friends.
To discover how East West Rail will transform everyday journeys, we went to Cambridge and Bedford to find out more. This video summarises just some of the things people told us about how East West Rail would improve their commute and make it easier to reach the things that matter most.
Backed by local businesses
There is also strong advocacy from a wide range of businesses in the area, including AstraZeneca which already generates £3.6bn GVA per year for the UK economy.
In the video below, local businesses explain what East West Rail will mean to them.