This section will connect Oxford, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and Bedford - bringing faster journey times and lower transport costs while easing pressure on local roads.
Work on this section has been split into two phases.
- Phase 1 was completed in 2016 and was delivered by Network Rail, Chiltern Railways, and local companies Carillion and Buckingham Group.
- Phase 2 is underway, with enabling works being delivered by the East West Rail Alliance, which was formed in 2015 by Network Rail.
This approach allows the following new services to be phased in over several years, with services between Oxford and Bicester already operating through Chiltern Railways. The first of the remaining services will be introduced by the end of 2024.
- Oxford and Bicester: three services per hour (delivered)
- Oxford and Milton Keynes: two services per hour
- Oxford and Bedford: one service per hour
- Milton Keynes and Aylesbury: one service per hour
East West Railway Company was set up in 2017 in part to work with the East West Railway Alliance to help drive and accelerate the work on Phase 2 quickly, safely, and at the best value for money. In time, the Western Section will join with the Central Section, allowing trains to run directly between Oxford and Cambridge.
Oxford to Bicester (Western Section Phase 1) - Complete
This phase was completed in December 2016 and saw a major upgrade of the existing rail line between Oxford and Bicester to facilitate future East West Rail services.
It also involved building a new one kilometre section of railway to connect the former Bicester Town station (now Bicester Village station) to Oxford via the Chiltern main line, enabling a new Chiltern Railways service between Oxford and London. Combining the two projects means more cost-effective delivery and less disruption for communities and passengers.
Phase 1 was delivered by Network Rail, Chiltern Railways, and a joint venture led by local companies Carillion and Buckingham Group.
Bicester to Bedford (Western Section Phase 2) - Work so far
Phase 2 follows on from the successful delivery of Phase 1 of the Western Section which upgraded the line from Oxford to Bicester Village.
This phase will reinstate and upgrade old railway lines, allowing new train services to run between Oxford and Milton Keynes, between Oxford and Bedford and between Milton Keynes and Aylesbury. These services will be phased in over several years, with the first service expected to start running by the end of 2023.
The East West Rail Alliance is delivering this phase and is already laying the ground for construction via enabling works, with major construction activities expected to start in late 2019.
Our role is to guide the delivery of this phase, making sure its delivery is timely and achieves value for money, while providing the greatest possible customer benefit.
Bicester to Bedford (Western Section Phase 2) - Next steps
Construction of Phase 2 is dependent on government approval through a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO), which, if granted, could allow major construction activities to begin in late 2019.
In July 2018 Network Rail submitted its final proposals to government, following three rounds of community consultation and extensive planning.
A public inquiry is now underway which will allow an inspector to consider any outstanding objections, and provide a final recommendation to the Secretary of State for his consideration.