East West Railway Company appoints first CEO

Today East West Railway Company appointed Simon Blanchflower as its first CEO.

A well-respected figure in the industry, Simon brings considerable leadership experience from major infrastructure projects, both in the public and private sector. His experience ranges from the early stage development of Crossrail to the innovative delivery of Heathrow Express. Most recently, Simon has been Programme Director for the £5bn Thameslink project.

The East West Railway Company was set up by the Secretary of State for Transport in 2017, with the ambitious remit to accelerate delivery of rail infrastructure and passenger services from Oxford to Cambridge. The line will deliver much needed connectivity to unlock the economic potential of this corridor - supporting new jobs and communities, as well as reducing journey times and travel costs for local residents and commuters.

Simon will lead the company through its next phase of development, as it assumes full client duties for the project early in Control Period 6 and launches a public consultation on route options for the new section of railway from Bedford to Cambridge.

Commenting on the appointment, Rob Brighouse, Chairman of East West Railway Company said, “East West Rail is a ‘start up’ with ambitions to help shape the industry for the future. Simon is the right person to lead our team as we grow. He has a proven track record in both developing schemes in their early stages and delivering complex major projects to completion. When you combine this with his reputation for inspirational leadership and innovation, I’m delighted he is joining us as our CEO.” 

Simon Blanchflower said:

I am very excited to take up my new role at East West Rail. It’s a fantastic project, with the opportunity to prove there is a better way to deliver the railway, as well as to support economic growth in such an important corridor for the country. I can’t wait to get started!

Cllr Mark Shaw, chairman of the East West Rail Consortium, a grouping of local authorities which has promoted the business case for East West Rail since 1995 and is a shareholder in the scheme, said: “This is very welcome news. Simon brings significant experience of delivering major rail infrastructure projects and his appointment will add further momentum behind getting trains on tracks at the earliest opportunity. The Consortium looks forward to working with him and the Company’s board members to fully realise East West Rail’s potential.”


East West Railway Company Limited is an arms-length body of the Department for Transport.

East West Rail is being built progressively in sections:

  • Western Section: Western Section Phase 1 (Oxford to Bicester) and Phase 2 (Bicester to Milton Keynes/Bedford and Aylesbury to Milton Keynes); With phase one between Oxford and Bicester already complete, phase two will see major track and signalling upgrades extending services from Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury. These works include the reinstatement of the Varsity line between Bletchley and Claydon Junction, a mothballed section of railway closed since the 1960s.
  • Central Section: Bedford to Cambridge.

The project is a vital part of the government’s plans to provide the region with a road and rail network fit for the future, improving links to jobs, education, leisure and health services.