The England’s Economic Heartland alliance of local authorities is calling for East-West Rail services to be extended from Oxford to Didcot, where passengers could interchange with services on the Great Western Main Line. The plan raises questions about the future of three intermediate stations on the line.
The Government is committed to delivering phase two of the East-West Rail project, which will deliver the infrastructure for new services between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford. Whether services continue beyond Oxford remains the subject of discussion.
England’s Economic Heartland (EEH) wants the services extended ten miles south to Didcot. The Oxford-Didcot line is already intensively used and line capacity will be examined in the Oxford rail connectivity study (LTT 16 Feb).
EEH programme director Martin Tugwell told the area’s strategic transport forum: “Linked with the work to be taken forward through the Oxford rail connectivity study, the issue of platform capacity at Oxford station is one that is likely to act as a constraint on the train service pattern that is achievable on East West Rail.
“The East West Rail Consortium [of councils] has identified the opportunity to consider re-allocating capacity between Oxford and Didcot, specifically making use of capacity currently used by local stopping services,” he said. “The reletting of the Great Western franchise affords the opportunity to consider making these available for use by East West Rail services.”
Tugwell told LTT that the EEH was not recommending the closure of the intermediate stations at Appleford, Radley and Culham. “We aren’t taking a position on what the local services should be. What we’re saying is now is the time to look at how you use capacity on the Oxford to Didcot corridor.”
The EEH has previously called for the line to be four-tracked but Tugwell said there may be other ways of adding capacity, such as passing loops.
The EEH sees the proposed western rail link to Heathrow Airport opening up further opportunities for East West Rail. “Looking ahead to when the scheme would be operational in 2027 the enhanced network via Reading would provide a direct rail option via East West Rail to north Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury via the Aylesbury spur, Milton Keynes, Northampton and Bedford,” said Tugwell.
The EEH is also pressing the DfT to consider allocating some capacity on the southern end of the West Coast Main Line, freed up when HS2 opens, to passenger services between Northampton, Milton Keynes/Bletchley, Aylesbury, High Wycombe and Old Oak Common.
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