Your Questions Answered

East West Rail is a large scale project and there's a lot going on to make sure we deliver faster, greener, better, safer and cheaper. To make life easy, we've picked out the most common questions we get asked and added the latest information below. We hope this helps.

A process map v2

Some construction works are already underway between Bicester and Bletchley, but more planning is required before we can construct the full railway. Planning for this is taking place over five stages, and after two community consultations we've already completed the first two.

Most recently, people living in towns and villages across the potential EWR Route, and their community representatives were extremely generous in their time and expertise during the 2021 Consultation, giving EWR a significant – and very welcome – challenge to see how and where we could change and improve East West Rail. We received over 9,000 responses and they are currently being reviewed and considered by our expert team.

We will publish a report summarising the consultation feedback as well as information on how the feedback has been used to inform plans for the railway once we’ve completed that work. Initially we had aimed to finish this work early in 2022, but we now believe it is more likely to be ready to publish in the summer of 2022.

Communities will have further opportunities to comment on EWR proposals at a subsequent statutory consultation, following which we expect to submit a formal application for a Development Consent Order to the Secretary of State for permission to construct and operate EWR.

Interested in learning more? You can read more about the planning process and what lies ahead on our planning page.

A jigsaw puzzle

East West Rail is being delivered in three Connection Stages.

Connection Stage One: East West Rail services will first run from Oxford to Bletchley/Milton Keynes. Construction is now underway and we expect services to start running in 2025.

Connection Stage Two: Building on the work completed in Connection Stage One, East West Rail services will then extend from Oxford to Bedford. Detailed planning for this section is underway.

Connection Stage Three: This connection stage completes the full East West Rail connection, and will see services run from Oxford to Cambridge via Bedford and Bletchley. Detailed planning for this section is underway. Interested in learning more?

Our Connection Stages video helps illustrate these connections and journeys in more detail.

Person in front of tree

The decision to choose Route Option E was firmly rooted in feedback and observations we received from local communities in the non-statutory public consultation we held in early 2019.

Seven thousand people and organisations gave their time and expertise to respond to the consultation and Route Option E was ranked highest on four of our five key criteria: benefits for transport users, supporting economic growth, supporting new homes and environmental considerations.

On the environmental front, Route Option B would have passed through more extensive areas of flood plain which would require longer viaducts and extensive mitigation measures to prevent the exacerbation of flood risk and ecological effects downstream. This adds to both construction and maintenance costs.

Route Option E also avoids impacts on: the setting of the historic park and garden near Moggerhanger; the extensive area of ancient woodland between Cople and Northill; the top grade agricultural land between Great Barford and Blunham; and historic landfill sites south of Bedford. All of these would be affected by Route Option B, but not Route Option E. The landfill sites in particular pose a significant environmental constraint due to the likelihood of land contamination which would require remediation at significant cost.

In addition, Route Option E performs better than Route Option B for the purpose of East West Rail’s Net Zero Carbon objective. Route Option E would mean a shorter length of viaducts, a reduced flood and geotechnical risk and less complex solutions that would contribute to reducing the carbon emissions during the construction stage. A more detailed carbon assessment is neither appropriate nor possible at this stage of the design process. Carbon assessments will be undertaken at the appropriate moment.

We also undertook detailed economic modelling that indicates Route Option E would provide the greatest benefits for transport users and, by connecting key areas of economic activity, will contribute to wider economic benefits for both Bedford and the wider region.

Interested in learning more about our approach to the environment? Head over to our environment sustainability page.

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We're committed to protecting the environment at every stage. Finding ways to avoid, minimise or mitigate negative environmental impacts have shaped our plans from the outset.

At every stage, we measure and assess the environmental impacts of proposals. As the programme develops and plans are finalised, we will apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO).

At this stage, we will have undertaken a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment of the potential effects of the proposals. This will inform the Environmental Statement, which will be submitted as one of the documents supporting the DCO application.

At the DCO stage, residents, communities, businesses and other stakeholders will be invited to review the application and provide feedback to The Planning Inspectorate. You can learn more about the DCO process by visiting the planning page on our website.

Freigth 1

There’s lots for us to consider when it comes to rail freight. It takes lorries off local roads, keeps supplies moving efficiently and brings social and economic value to the UK of £2.5bn per year.

But there are other factors to think about too. For example, freight trains are slower and longer which, without careful routing, could affect the smooth running of passenger services. As with all our decision making, we’re weighing up the facts so that we can be confident we’re delivering the right solution.

One question we regularly get asked relates to the operating hours of rail freight, particularly whether freight will be carried on EWR at night.

Our current aspiration – as published during the non-statutory public consultation in 2021 – is for freight trains to run mainly during an 18-hour operational window. This would mean no freight trains in operation between 00.00 and 06.00. We’re still in the early stages of planning and there’s lots to take into account.

With the help of information provided by analysis and community feedback, we’re considering a wide variety of views, local and national benefits, and overall effectiveness, before any decisions are made.

Interesting in learning more? Head on over to our freight page.

An open book v3

At the heart of every major infrastructure project is the Business Case, which should:

  • highlight the rationale for a project – the ‘case for change’
  • evaluate the benefit, costs and risks of alternative options
  • demonstrate how the preferred solution has been reached.

As a project develops, more evidence and information becomes available, such as new evidence and feedback from communities and stakeholders. The Business Case is developed in parallel, capturing these updates as the programme evolves through different stages. It is therefore never static, and is constantly evolving. 

The East West Railway Company (EWR Co) is part-way through this process, having submitted a Strategic Outline Business Case in 2019, which formed the basis of the 2019 non-statutory consultation. Following further consultation on more detailed plans, an Outline Business Case will be developed, which will be published as part of the DCO application.

Interested in learning more about our business case? Head on over to our business case page.

 

A map

We are confident that the Preferred Route Option (Route E) is the right one for the communities who live and work between Bedford and Cambridge

1) It will deliver the best value for taxpayers, returning the most benefit for every pound spent EWR Co worked closely with industry experts and conducted extensive studies to understand the economic impacts of each route, including productivity and job creation. We are confident that for every pound spend on building the railway, this route gives the greatest economic benefit.

2) It was the most popular option with people who responded to EWR Co’s 2019 consultation During the six week early-stage, non-statutory consultation, we asked for comments on five possible route options. Over 3,500 people took the time to come to our events, and 7,000 responded to the consultation via telephone, email, directly through our website or by using the freepost feedback form. People who responded gave the Preferred Route Option the highest score on four of our five key criteria: benefits for transport users, environmental considerations, supporting economic growth and supporting new homes.

3) It will deliver the best opportunities for the environment Route E gives us the greatest opportunity to avoid the most environmentally challenging areas and potential direct impacts on irreplaceable or sensitive environmental features, including heritage assets, with good opportunities to achieve biodiversity net gain.

The Preferred Route Option report, which you can find on our Bedford to Cambridge page, provides more detail about how we arrived at our Preferred Route Option.

Benefits

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, business, technology and an increasingly dynamic business scene. Together they contribute around £111 billion to the national economy each year.

While it’s a fantastic place to live and work, people are being let down by a lack of good east-west transport links. This is limiting their ability to enjoy everything the area has to offer – from easy opportunities to commute between home and work, to days out with friends and family.

East West Rail connects people to what matters most. It will provide:

- New jobs

- Better connections with local days out, friends, family, schools and jobs

- Eased pressure on roads

- Growth for local economies

Interested in learning more about how East West Rail could benefit you? Head over to our East West Rail benefits page.

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Hand holding a hammer

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