Planning for East West Rail is taking place over five stages

East West Rail is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to connect people in the towns and villages between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge with the region’s main centres of employment and cultural heritage. It will bring a wealth of benefits to the region by cutting travel times, easing congestion on local roads and bringing more jobs within reach of local people.

So how do we realise this ambition and take East West Rail from planning to construction?

We’ve been carrying out technical studies, laying new track, as well as building and improving stations, bridges and other infrastructure. But more planning is required before we can build the full railway. This is taking place over five stages, and we've already completed the first two. 

Learn more about each of the stages below, or download our fact sheet

The route to construction

More information about the five stages


    This stage included:

    • Our first public consultation
    • Analysis and design
    • Choosing a preferred Route Option


    In 2019 held a non-statutory public consultation, talking with people living and working across the route corridor, elected representatives and many other organisations and interest groups. Using their comments alongside environmental, economic and technical studies we chose a Preferred Route Option.



    This stage involved:

    • Designing and testing possible route alignments between Bedford and Cambridge
    • Identifying potential additional infrastructure needed to run services between Oxford and Cambridge
    • Environmental and land surveys
    • A second public consultation in 2021


    In this stage we consulted on the options we had developed and identified a preference for two emerging Route Alignments for the new railway between Bedford and Cambridge. These were referred to in the consultation materials as Alignments 1 and 9.  We also considered station locations, surveyed land, and studied connections with local transport networks. We looked at what further additional infrastructure may be required between Oxford to Bicester, Bletchley and Bedford to allow future EWR trains to run all the way through to Cambridge.


    The quality and volume of feedback from the 2021 consultation was excellent. We received almost 10,000 responses and, within these, over 160,000 individual matters were raised. Since the consultation closed, we've reviewed this feedback and used it to help guide our developing plans to design a railway that best meets the needs of communities across the entire region. In May 2023 we shared a route update that outlines our latest proposals.

    There is more work to be done on this current stage of the Project which involves:

    • Further analysis and design
    • Developing proposals for Route Alignment 1 (Tempsford variant) between Bedford and Cambridge, and for additional infrastructure between Oxford to Bicester, and Bletchley to Bedford
    • Undertaking statutory public consultation in 2024


    Based on feedback from the 2019 and 2021 consultations, along with the findings of ongoing environmental, economic and technical studies, we’ll continue to work on more detailed designs and proposals. We’ll present these at the statutory consultation, which we expect to take place in the first half of 2024. This will be a key part of the process to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO).

    This stage will involve:

    • EWR Co submitting an application for a Development Consent Order
    • Planning Inspectorate holds an Examination
    • Secretary of State for Transport makes a decision


    We submit the proposals to the Secretary of State as part of an application for a “Development Consent Order”. On his behalf, the Planning Inspectorate will carry out a public examination of our application which normally lasts up to six months. People will be able to comment on the application.

    The Inspectorate goes through a strict process of examination and hearings, before making a recommendation to the Secretary of State on whether our proposals should go ahead. A final decision is usually given within six months of the examination closing. More information can be found in our DCO factsheet here.

    Once we’ve complied with any initial conditions or requirements included in the Development Consent Order, the government will consider the full business case for the Project to make the final decision to proceed. Following further conversations with the public and stakeholders, can start to construct your new railway. 

To find out more about how the planning process works, take a look at this question and answer blog.