- £794m investment into next phase of East West Rail and reopening of the Northumberland Line as part of Government’s ambition to build back better
- Final round of Restoring Your Railway ‘Ideas Fund’ opens to develop proposals to restore railway lines, services and stations axed under the Beeching cuts
- Investment to reconnect communities and stimulate economic growth, with East West Rail works expected to create 1,500 skilled jobs
A £794m investment package to reopen two important rail routes closed more than 50 years ago has been announced this weekend (23 January) by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
The new funding includes £760m for the delivery of the next phase of East West Rail, which will create 1,500 skilled jobs and reinstate direct rail services between Bicester and Bletchley for the first time since 1968. It also includes £34m to rapidly progress plans to reopen the Northumberland Line between Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Ashington, which closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.
The Transport Secretary has also called on local authorities, MPs and community groups to submit bids for a share of the third and final round of the Department for Transport’s ‘Ideas Fund’, designed to encourage proposals to reopen railway lines, services and stations.
This weekend's announcement forms part of the Government’s commitments to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and level up transport infrastructure across the country by investing in rail connections that will unlock new housing and create jobs and opportunity.
Barry Wood – Chair of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc Leadership Group and Leader of Cherwell District Council – said: “This investment announcement demonstrates Government’s commitment for improved East-West links to enhance the connectivity of our towns and cities across the Arc.
“Progress with this Bicester to Bletchley section is a further step towards completing East West Rail, identified as key piece of infrastructure that will help unlock greater economic opportunity for our fast growing region. It will bring significant benefits to local communities, giving more choice for people wanting to travel more quickly and sustainably to local jobs, education and for leisure.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Restoring railways helps put communities back on the map and this investment forms part of our nationwide effort to build back vital connections and unlock access to jobs, education and housing. Returning these routes to their former glory, and progressing work to reopen even more lines and stations, shows our commitment to levelling up journeys across the country as we build back better from the pandemic.”
Simon Blanchflower, Chief Executive Officer at East West Railway Company, said: “We are delighted that the Government has shown a big commitment to East West Rail and the Oxford-Cambridge Arc with this investment decision. This funding will enable us to get on with the construction work that will connect communities who live on the East West Rail link.
"We are committed to improving connectivity across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and fully recognise our responsibility to ensure that it is delivered in a way that minimises disruption, supports the regional economy, maximises benefits and supports jobs across the region.”
This weekend’s funding marks an important milestone in the delivery of East West Rail, which will provide better connectivity along the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and shorten journey times between routes outside of London, stimulating economic growth and serving major new housing developments.
The works between Bicester and Bletchley are expected to create 1,500 jobs. This phase of the project will include the construction of a new station at Winslow and as well as enhancements to existing stations along the route, including Bletchley. By 2025, two trains per hour will run between Oxford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley.
The latest round of the ‘Ideas Fund’ will run until 5 March, with successful bids due to be announced later this summer.