East West Rail is being delivered in three Connection Stages
When the East West Railway Company was created in 2018, we were given some specific challenges by the Secretary of State for Transport:
- Look at the work already underway from Oxford to Bedford, to see if there was a way to improve the way it was delivered.
- Develop the part of the project from Bedford to Cambridge
- Properly integrate these sections of the project to get the best results for all communities right the way along the Oxford to Cambridge route.
To make sure we’re minimising disruption to local communities, spending taxpayer money in the best way, and delivering reliable services, we carried out a detailed review of all the plans and assumptions already in place across the whole project.
We are now delivering East West Rail in terms of “Connection Stages”, which relate directly to a full journey – not just a piece of track. You can learn more about them below.
New services and destinations will be added at every Connection Stage
Connection Stage One: East West Rail services will run from Oxford to Bletchley/Milton Keynes.
Connection Stage Two: Building on the work completed in Connection Stage One, East West Rail services will then extend from Oxford to Bedford.
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.
The above map and our Connection Stages video help illustrate these connections and journeys in more detail.
The status of each Connection Stage
In the November 2020 Spending Review, the Government committed to investment for the infrastructure on East West Rail between Bicester and Bletchley. This commitment means we can build on work already started by the East West Rail Alliance at Winslow station and Bletchley flyover, as they begin to construct the new railway.
Our aim is to have trains running between Oxford and Milton Keynes by 2025. But we are very clear – we will not introduce a service that would be unreliable for our passengers, or cause delays elsewhere on the railway. For that reason, we are working with Network Rail and DfT to demonstrate that this service will be reliable from day one..
In the worst case, it may be that we need to introduce the service to Bletchley first and then extend it to Milton Keynes, once we have proved it will run on time. We would rather be transparent about that now, so people know what we are working hard to achieve.
We continue to explore options on how to connect Aylesbury with our colleagues in the Department for Transport and Network Rail. The original plans would not have provided local communities with a reliable service, and this section requires more investment than originally planned. There is further work to do to demonstrate to Government that this connection represents the best value for money for taxpayers.
This Connection Stage is about creating a reliable connection for two trains an hour from Oxford to Bedford – which can then be extended to Cambridge in later Connection Stages.
Some works on this section were previously proposed and consented as part of the Western Section, but they are not sufficient to run a reliable 2 tph service to Bedford, let alone extend that service to Cambridge. EWR Co are looking at this holistically, to deliver a full Oxford to Cambridge train service, and that is going to require significantly more investment than envisaged by Network Rail for the Western Section – including the remodelling of Bedford Station.
Our ambition is to get trains up and running from Oxford to Bedford as quickly as possible, so we’re looking at upgrade options, and the best way to deliver the upgrade required. We put forward a number of proposals as part of a consultation in early 2021 and aim to submit our funding bid to Government for the construction of this section of East West Rail in the 2021 Spending Review.
This is the final connection stage of the East West Rail project and completes the train journey from Oxford to Cambridge.
In January 2020, we shared the preferred route option from Bedford to Cambridge with the public, which identified the broad geographical area the line will run through.
We then identified potential route alignments that are needed to deliver Connection Stage 3. These were consulted on in early 2021, and we are now analysing the feedback we received. We are using this feedback, alongside other feedback from our engagement programme and our own technical research and design work to refine our proposals. These refined proposals will then be presented to the public through a 'statutory consultation', which is expected to take place in the coming year.
After this statutory stage of consultation we will carry out further work before submitting detailed plans to the Government in an application for a development consent order, which is needed to construct this section of the project.
The first EWR trains will start running from 2025
Connection Stage 1:
East West Rail trains will start running from Oxford to Bletchley and Milton Keynes from 2025.
Connection Stages 2 & 3:
We are cracking on with developing plans for these connection stages in detail – and that’s why we will be consulting with the public in the coming months – to hear their views, and to help us refine our plans.
As we firm up those plans, we will be able to set out the timeline in more detail and we will be working with Government to unlock the next tranche of funding in this year’s Spending Review.
Connection Stage 1: funded
A recent £760m commitment from Government means we can get on with constructing the section of East West Rail between Oxford and Bletchley and Milton Keynes (Connection Stage 1).
We expect to receive further funding from Government for Connection Stages 2 & 3 at appropriate times as our plans for East West Rail keep evolving. It is quite common with a lot of infrastructure projects of this nature that funding is allocated in tranches to make sure the business case continues to be robust and stringent financial controls are in place.