Conclusions and next steps

The 2021 consultation

Our second non-statutory consultation took place between 31 March and 9 June 2021, following the publication of the Preferred Route Option Report.


This non-statutory consultation sought to gain feedback on two key themes: customer experience and railway operations; and on our infrastructure proposals such as route alignments, stations and level crossings.


The 2021 consultation was delivered with the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which regrettably restricted opportunities for face-to-face engagement. Therefore, to ensure that information was available as widely as possible and people could participate and engage flexibly, we offered innovative ways for people to take part, including:


  • Virtual consultation rooms – these provided detailed information on each section of the consultation including access to all consultation documents and maps.
  • Online public events – we held 18 online events for communities from Oxford to Cambridge.
  • Live chat events – we held a series of 16, two-hour live chat sessions via the virtual consultation rooms so that participants could discuss key topics directly with members of our Project team.
  • Dedicated phone line – a telephone line was available throughout the consultation period so that people could speak directly to the Project team.
  • We also sent hard copies of the documents to local elected representatives, from local parish and ward councillors, to the MPs across the route, as well as to anyone else who requested them.
  • We received over 9,800 responses to the 2021 consultation, with over 160,000 individual matters raised. We have reviewed each of these responses and they have been considered by relevant specialists from across our project team to inform the ongoing work to develop EWR.
  • This report summarises that work and explains how we have considered and used this feedback. We have grouped individual matters into overarching themes so that we can give a summary in response to the feedback we received.
  • As demonstrated through the number and types of comments summarised in this report, the consultation was highly effective in securing valuable feedback.


We recognise and greatly appreciate the time taken by those who have engaged in the consultation process and provided their views on EWR to date.

Work since the consultation

Since the 2021 consultation, we have continued to engage with stakeholders, communities and the wider public through a variety of methods including via our Local Representative Group meetings, community drop in events, our community newsletter and additional stakeholder meetings. While these engagement activities are not part of the formal consultation process, we have made a record of any new information provided and shared this with our Project team to be considered within our proposals.


Our Project team has also continued to undertake further design development and environmental survey work. The insights from this work, which is ongoing, have helped us to develop the design of the Project and reduce the potential impact of our proposals on the environment.  


In December 2021 we agreed with the Department for Transport (DfT) to undertake our Affordable Connections Project (ACP). This was driven by two factors. Firstly, a drive for lower costs, reflecting the impacts of Covid-19; and secondly a focus on ensuring the benefits could be supported through local political leadership. The ACP therefore considered whether there remained a strategic case for investing in EWR and if there were solutions which could deliver most of the expected benefits of EWR at a lower capital cost to the taxpayer.


In summary the ACP concluded that there remains a compelling strategic case for EWR and showed that there is scope to deliver the transformational change that EWR promises at a lower cost than that presented at the 2021 consultation. More information on what the ACP involved can be found in the Economic and Technical Report (ETR) available on our website.

Summary of changes made since the consultation

A summary of the feedback we have received at the 2021 non statutory consultation, additional work that has been carried out since the consultation, and what has been presented in the Route Update Report for each section of the route are outlined below. More information on changes to the route can be found in the Route Update Report available on our website.


The applicable section chapters within this report are:

  • Chapter 5 – Section A
  • Chapter 6 – Section B
  • Chapter 7 – Section C
  • Chapter 8 – Section D
  • Chapter 9 – Section E
  • Chapter 10 – Section F


Table of changes to the route


Route section

Summary of what was presented at the consultation

Summary of your feedback

Work since the consultation


Section A: Oxford to Bicester – Oxford station

We consulted on proposed improvements to Oxford station, including the addition of new platforms to increase the number of trains that can use the station and new infrastructure south of the station.

You commented on various current issues experienced at Oxford station (including capacity, design, access and parking) and how it could be enhanced as part of the Project. These comments included the importance of EWR Co working strategically with other planned station improvement schemes and using the regeneration of the station to maximise economic and residential development opportunities, as well as exploring the possibility of creating a station quarter.

A new platform and entrance on the western side of the station are already being delivered as part of Network Rail’s Oxford Corridor Phase 2 scheme. Network Rail is also currently considering proposals to reopen the Cowley Branch Line to passenger services. This scheme would enable additional capacity for trains to change direction (turn back) south of Oxford station and would also facilitate EWR services.


Further trackwork within the railway corridor may be required between Oxford station and Oxford North Junction to help increase capacity on this section of line, and we are working with Network Rail to better understand this. We will provide further information on our proposals for Oxford station at the statutory consultation, especially taking account of the progress that Network Rail is making with its own proposals. Should the Network Rail Cowley scheme not progress, or it not be possible to integrate in the required timescales for our Project, we will need to develop a turn back facility south of Oxford, which would be complementary to the Cowley proposals. To find out more you can read the Oxford station chapter of the Route Update Report.

Section A: Oxford to Bicester – Oxford Parkway to Bicester

We proposed potential improvements at both Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village stations.

You commented on various current aspects of Oxford Parkway station (including capacity, cycle and bus access, facilities and parking), as well as the potential for an increase in traffic on the surrounding Strategic Road Network because of EWR.

You also commented on current access to and connections with Bicester Village station, and our proposed works to the station, with responses both supporting and opposing the plans. Some people made suggestions for station improvements. There were also some comments that expressed a preference for Bicester North station to be used for EWR services instead.

We are considering what work would be required at Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village stations to serve the additional passengers resulting from the new EWR services. One of the main considerations is how to improve access to both stations via more sustainable forms of transport as this will affect any need for the expansion of the existing parking at these stations. We are also considering the requirement for passing loops between Oxford and Bletchley to allow faster trains to overtake slower stopping services safely.

Further information on any proposed changes at Oxford Parkway and Bicester Village stations will be presented at the statutory consultation. To find out more you can read the Oxford to Bletchley chapter of the Route Update Report.

Section A: Oxford to Bicester – Bicester London Road level crossing

We presented six concepts at the consultation. Based on an anticipated service pattern for EWR trains, all involved closing the current crossing to motorised vehicles and providing alternative ways for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians to cross the railway. These concepts were designed to improve safety, enable a more reliable train service, and reduce traffic disruption. 

You made suggestions about what we should consider as our proposals for the London Road level crossing are developed, including crossing accessibility; concept design; construction; safety and cost; and potential negative impacts on roads, the community, businesses and the environment.

Some responses expressed support for the closure of the level crossing and some expressed opposition.

Through careful consideration of options, and engagement with local stakeholders, we are aiming to present the best solution which reduces local impacts and enables services which deliver significant benefits for people locally.


Balancing the impact of the anticipated lengthy and frequent closures with the impacts of constructing a replacement road crossing of the railway, we are seeking to develop an alternative solution and are not progressing with concepts 2, 3, 4 or 5 as presented
at the 2021 consultation. We are considering if there are ways of keeping the crossing open for local traffic. We are undertaking further feasibility studies and technical assessment to identify our preferred option for Bicester London Road level crossing, and we’ll present our findings for comment at the statutory consultation. To find out more you can read the Oxford to Bletchley, including the London Road level crossing chapter of the Route Update Report.


Section B: Bletchley & Marston Vale Line – Bletchley station


We explained that we were considering a range of further improvements to Bletchley station. For example, altering or replacing the current footbridge, enlarging the car park and creating a new eastern entrance.


You commented on various aspects of the proposals for Bletchley station, including the need for the improvements, comments on specific elements of the station design and its facilities and comments on the impact of the proposals on the local area and community more widely.


We revisited these improvements as part of the ACP to understand the cost implications.


We continue to review opportunities for further improvement and are working closely with Milton Keynes Council and Network Rail to support the development of a vision and masterplan for the area, including a potential eastern entrance to the station, which could be transformational for Bletchley. We will need to consider the funding implications for such an option. We remain committed to working with the local authority and other local stakeholders to improve connectivity between the existing station and the surrounding area, and to develop our understanding of how an enhanced public realm, as well as opportunities to engage in active travel, could support this. To find out more you can read the Bletchley to Bedford – the Marston Vale Line (MVL) chapter of the Route Update Report.

Section B: Bletchley & Marston Vale Line – services and stations

We set out two concepts for future train services and stations on the MVL that would provide improvements to the existing railway and stations between Bletchley and Bedford.


Feedback was relatively evenly split in relation to the two concepts for services. Members of the public showed slightly more support for Concept 1, our statutory consultees preferred Concept 2.

Further assessments were undertaken as part of the ACP. We found that the predicted demand for travel between Bletchley and Bedford could be met by three trains per hour (tph), rather than the 4tph or 5tph as was originally proposed. We also investigated whether providing new stations would deliver the most benefit to local communities and the region and have sought to understand where enhancements to existing stations would be needed to meet safety standards and provide a sufficient level of service. 

We are undertaking further work to consider how customer needs would be best met through these train services. We are continuing to work with local stakeholders to help us identify the best solution for communities along this section of the route, which we will present at the statutory consultation. To find out more you can read the Bletchley to Bedford – the Marston Vale Line (MVL) chapter of the Route Update Report.




Section B: Bletchley & Marston Vale Line – line speed




We originally intended to increase line speed to up to 100mph on the MVL to improve journey times.




Feedback showed that people were concerned about the speed of trains through residential areas.




The work undertaken as part of the ACP has allowed us to reconsider the speed EWR trains would travel on this section of the route.




We are now looking at speeds of less than 100mph and working to understand how we can strike a balance between journey times – and therefore benefits to passengers – and the infrastructure costs. To find out more you can read the Bletchley to Bedford – the Marston Vale Line (MVL) chapter of the Route Update Report.

Section B: Bletchley & Marston Vale Line – level crossings

We presented our proposal to close all the remaining level crossings on the MVL to ensure a safe and reliable train service and replace them with between 16 and 19 new bridges or underpasses together with new links to existing bridges.

You provided a mix of both support and opposition to proposals to close level crossings as part of the Marston Vale Line (MVL) upgrade. Feedback showed that people were concerned about the loss of connectivity due to the proposed closure of level crossings and stations.

Noting the concerns around level crossing closures, we reassessed these as part of the ACP.

The outcomes of the ACP have enabled us to reconsider each of the level crossings along this section of the route to see where a potential reduction in train services per hour and a change in proposed line speed could allow us to keep crossings open to maintain safe connectivity for communities, manage engineering impacts and reduce the cost to the taxpayer. More information on our plans for the level crossings on the MVL will be presented at the statutory consultation. To find out more you can read the Bletchley to Bedford – the Marston Vale Line (MVL) chapter of the Route Update Report.

Section B: Bletchley & Marston Vale Line – MVL infrastructure

We said that we would need to lift and re-lay track over the full length of the MVL. We also identified the need for a passing loop in the vicinity of Ridgmont station to allow faster trains to overtake slower stopping services safely.

Feedback showed that people were concerned about the level of disruption during construction of the renewed infrastructure.

We undertook further work as part of the ACP to understand how many trains per hour would be needed between Bletchley and Bedford to meet the expected passenger numbers to service both the MVL and the whole route, as well as considering the speed of trains on this section of the route.

By undertaking this additional work, we have been able to reassess the changes to existing infrastructure that would be needed on the MVL. We believe that, through these changes, we would no longer need to lift and re-lay track over the full length of the MVL but could ensure the suitability of the line through targeted enhancements.

Passing loops would still be required but, in light of the other changes we are proposing, we are now doing further work to determine whether Ridgmont is still the best location.

We will provide further details at the statutory consultation. To find out more you can read the Bletchley to Bedford – the Marston Vale Line (MVL) chapter of the Route Update Report.

Section C: Bedford – Bedford St John’s

We presented two options to relocate Bedford St Johns station. Option 1 was identified as our emerging preferred option.

Your feedback demonstrated both support and opposition Options 1 and 2. Support for Option 1 expressed the view that it would be better connected as it is closer to existing bus routes, within walking distance of the town centre and Bedford station, and close to the hospital.

We reconsidered both options in light of the feedback we received during the 2021 consultation and as part of the ACP.

Option 1 remains our preference as it performed better in respect of cost, environmental impact, and consistency with local plans. It also provides easier access from the station to Bedford Hospital and good access to local schools. To find out more you can read the Bedford St Johns station and serving Bedford town centre chapter of the Route Update Report.

Section C: Bedford –Bedford station

We set out our emerging preference for redeveloping Bedford station. Trains approaching the station from the south would use the existing railway bridge across the River Great Ouse, assuming our emerging preferred option at Bedford St Johns was built.

There were comments both supporting and opposing the emerging preferred option for redeveloping Bedford station. Some feedback demonstrated support for the emerging preference on the grounds that it would enable improvements to the station, provide better opportunities for town centre regeneration and bring economic benefits to Bedford by helping to improve regional connectivity. Some feedback opposed redeveloping the station as it wasn’t thought to be necessary and that the current station facilities are acceptable. Many people said that current station location is poor and an increase in passengers would negatively impact the local area.

We reconsidered our proposals for Bedford station in light of the feedback and as part of the ACP.

Our emerging preference to improve the existing station facilities has not changed except that we do not propose to provide a western access to the station to connect with the Queen’s Park area because it is not required to facilitate EWR services but would incur significant costs. However, we would consider opportunities for third party funding to support such an enhancement. To find out more you can read the Bedford St Johns station and serving Bedford town centre chapter of the Route Update Report.

Section C: Bedford – Connecting to Bedford town

We set out our emerging preference to serve Bedford station, and be close to the town centre, and as part of this the requirement to continue north through Bedford station.

People told us we should reconsider our decision for all EWR trains to serve Bedford station directly because of impacts on residents. They thought that we should consider whether a different way of connecting the centre of Bedford to EWR along some or all of the former Varsity Line should be adopted.

We took into consideration this feedback and as part of the ACP we looked at whether our emerging proposals were the most cost-effective option to unlock the benefits of EWR services to Bedford. We looked again at alignments that pass to the south of the town or re-use parts of the former alignment of the closed Varsity Line. We found that these alternatives have significant environmental impacts, such as flood risk and cause loss of public open space.

The preferred alignment from the 2021 consultation, passing through Bedford station and to the north of the town along the MML, remains the best option for Bedford. To find out more you can read the Bedford St Johns station and serving Bedford town centre chapter of the Route Update Report.

Section C: Bedford – North of Bedford station

We identified an emerging preferred option to construct two additional tracks on the MML north of Bedford station, dedicated to EWR services. These would be built to the eastern side of the existing railway lines, increasing the number of tracks in this area from four to six.

Your feedback told us that the potential for demolition of homes was particularly concerning to residents and the wider community. You opposed proposals to build two additional tracks due to the need to demolish property, costs and impacts on the community. You also suggested considering a smaller number of tracks or alternative solutions such as platform changes.

We reconsidered the potential to deliver the benefits of a six-track option using the existing network with a four-track option.

Additional timetable modelling has indicated that it would not be possible to fit the new EWR services into the timetable on the current four-track Midland Main Lines. This is because the timetable is driven by constraints further afield. For example the timing of the GTR services through central London to the south coast, and the need to ‘weave’ freight services through the station area on specifically timed paths because of the high occupancy of platforms by GTR services. If the lines north of Bedford are shared between EWR and non-EWR services, these constraints mean that Thameslink and freight services would likely be prioritised in times of disruption and perturbation, because of the need to reduce knock-on effects across the wider network, increasing the performance risk to EWR.

Our preference to increase the number of tracks from four to six remains unchanged.

However, through design development, we have reduced the overall number of properties that are likely to be partially acquired and/or demolished due to the construction of two additional tracks from 98 (97 residential properties and one business property) identified at the 2021 consultation, to 66 (65 residential properties and one business property) now. To find out more you can read the Bedford St Johns station and serving Bedford town centre chapter of the Route Update Report.

Section D: Clapham Green to the Eversdens

We presented five shortlisted route alignment options for comment: Route Alignments 1, 2, 6, 8 and 9, which, between them, included six new station location options. Of the alignments, 1 and 9 were identified as our emerging preferences.

You provided varied feedback on all the alignments presented. This included a mixture of support and opposition for Route Alignment 1 (RA1) and Route Alignment 9 (RA9).

There was support for RA1, some people said it would have easier station access and align more closely with existing developments. Some people expressed a preference for a Cambourne North station as this would have easier station access, align more closely with existing developments and have less impact on the A1198.

However, some people opposed a station at Cambourne North and St Neots South as they are too far away from residents, so would not serve the current population and would encourage more people to drive to the station.

Some people voiced opposition to RA9, for reasons including its proximity to the village of Renhold, the plans for a Cambourne North station and a Tempsford station. People also said that Tempsford is too small to warrant the cost of a station and they were concerned about the risk of flooding.

However, others expressed support for RA9 because of its proposed station locations and suggested it could support a northern approach into Cambridge. They said a Cambourne North station would make better use of the flatter, less developed land in the area than a Cambourne South station. They stated that they would use a station at Tempsford more so than one at St Neots, and that a Tempsford station would be easier to access, considering existing congestion at St Neots.



Since the 2021 consultation, we have undertaken further development work on these options, taking on board feedback received during the 2021 consultation. This established that Route Alignments 1 and 9 remained our preference.

Using feedback from the consultation and further studies, we have concluded that one of our emerging preferences in 2021, Route Alignment 1, provides the best option for the majority of its length. Our analysis also showed us that a station near Tempsford (part of Route Alignment 9) would have greater advantages compared to a station at St Neots South (part of Route Alignment 1).


We consider that the best option is to follow the route of Route Alignment 1 for most of the route, but we have an emerging preference for a local variation so we can provide a new station at Tempsford, as we believe this location best supports opportunities for growth. We refer to this new route as Route Alignment 1 (Tempsford variant). To find out more you can read the Connecting Bedford and Cambourne – choosing the preferred alignment chapter of the Route Update Report.


Section E: Harlton to Hauxton

And Section F: Great Shelford to Cambridge

We set out our proposals for the new railway to approach Cambridge from the south. The proposed alignment would leave Cambourne and continue south-east, passing to the south of Haslingfield and Harston villages, at which point it would merge with the Shepreth Branch Line at Hauxton, and then join the West Anglia Mainline (WAML); this would also require either improvements to, or closure of Hauxton level crossing. Services would stop at the new Cambridge South station, located next to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, and then proceed north to Cambridge station.

Many responses to the consultation suggested that the decision to approach Cambridge from the south should be re-opened and that EWR should instead approach Cambridge from the north, stopping at Cambridge North before proceeding to Cambridge station. You also commented on various aspects of Hauxton Level Crossing (including local communities, accessibility, road congestion), as well as the potential impacts of EWR such as habitat loss in the surrounding environment. Your feedback showed you were also concerned about value for money, impact on roads and impact of construction on existing train services, among other themes. 

Taking this feedback on board, and in line with the review we undertook on the strategic need for the Project and the case for the railway as part of the ACP. We reconsidered the need to connect to Cambridge (Cambridge South station in particular) and revisited the options to achieve this, including a northern approach to Cambridge.

We have concluded that a southern approach is the option which would best support the unlocking of economic opportunities.

We are continuing to refine the designs for the southern approach, and we will present these for your comment at the statutory consultation. To find out more you can read the Approach to Cambridge and Cambridge Station chapter of the Route Update Report.



What we expect to happen next

This Consultation Feedback Report sets out what people told us about our emerging proposals for the railway between Oxford and Cambridge, and how we have considered this in making our route announcement. The route announcement confirms the preferred route alignment for the new railway between Bedford and Cambridge, as well as confirming our proposals for infrastructure improvements between Oxford and Bedford.


We will be responding on customer experience and operations – what people have told us and how we have considered this – at a later stage and within a separate document. This will explain in further detail our vision for the railway and the service that people should expect and will set out how feedback from our consultation has influenced this.


We still have work to do and are carrying out further surveys and investigations to help us design the Project in more detail. These will be vital in providing information for our assessments, which will underpin the information presented at the statutory consultation and our subsequent application to seek consent to build and operate EWR. As part of this work, you may notice some activity in your area. This could be work such as environmental surveys, the findings of which will be published in the Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) as part of the statutory consultation.  


We will develop our design based on feedback received from the two previous consultations and continuing environmental, economic and technical studies. There will be further opportunity for you to comment on our proposals during the statutory consultation.

Throughout the process we will keep listening and talking to everyone with an interest in the Project. There will also be regular updates and information on our website.

Future consultation

We plan to start the statutory consultation on the preferred route and associated infrastructure, such as stations and level crossings, in the first half of 2024 to give you a further opportunity to share your views with us. In the meantime, we will continue to engage with our stakeholders and the local community to help us refine the design before inviting the public to submit further feedback. Consultation feedback will be carefully considered when finalising our proposals.

Application for a Development Consent Order (DCO)

The Secretary of State for Transport has directed that the Project be treated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) under the Planning Act 2008. This means that we are required to make an application for a DCO to obtain permission to construct and operate the railway.


The application will be made to the Planning Inspectorate who, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, will appoint a panel (the Examining Authority) to examine the application. The examination will include consideration of the likely impacts of the Project on the environment and protected habitats. Following the examination, the Examining Authority will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Transport, who will decide whether to give consent for the Project. 


You can find more information about the DCO process at: