Published: 20th September 2015
Network Rail (NR) is inviting people to comment on plans to upgrade the former Varsity Line between Bicester and Bedford, and Milton Keynes and Princes Risborough, both closed 50 years ago to passenger trains. A series of public exhibitions have been announced starting on September 21st and ending on October 1st. The reference material is also available on-line and comments can be emailed or posted to Network Rail.
The proposals out for comment concern the second phase of the East West Rail (EWR) project which when opened in four years time will provide a vital new cross-country main line between Oxford and Bedford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury, Princes Risborough and Marylebone.
Currently the line between Aylesbury, Claydon and Bicester is a freight-only single track low speed line while eastwards from Claydon for 11 miles to Newton Longville, the line has been mothballed since March 199. The project will see a complete reconstruction of these lines to transform them into a 100mph electrified main line. This would link the Great Western, Chiltern, West Coast and Midland main lines in an arc around London providing a strategic east-west route connecting key centres of economic activity.
The train service pattern envisaged is Reading to Oxford and Milton Keynes calling at Didcot Parkway, Oxford Parkway, Bicester, Winslow and Bletchley. A second service would also operate between Reading and Bletchley and on to Woburn Sands, Ridgmont and Bedford. The third service would link Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and Marylebone calling at Bletchley, Winslow, Princes Risborough and High Wycombe.
Winslow lost its train services half a century ago and when the line opens could be considered to become the new Verney Junction (just to the west of Winslow) with trains north, south, east and west! The line will also be a boon for freight services and there is some talk of long distance cross-country services running on this route as well calling at Milton Keynes.
Various station works are planned for Winslow, Bletchley, Ridgmont, Monks Risborough, Aylesbury Vale Parkway, Little Kimble, Bedford Midland and Woburn Sands. Passing loops will be provided at Newton Longville, Steeple Claydon and Calvert Waste Facility.
HS2 will also run alongside some of the EWR at Calvert and across the Aylesbury-Winslow line at Quainton so the area will be a hive of railway building for several years.
The EWR project will see a new station at Winslow, two new high level platforms at Bletchley, 18 new overbridges, 22 new footbridges/subways and changes to 97 railway crossings. Local residents are invited to find out more about the project at these consultation events and also to offer comments on the plans.
Cllr Rodney Rose, chair of the East West Rail Consortium’s Joint Delivery Board for the Western Section, said: “East West Rail will be a tremendous asset to people and businesses in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire. The benefits it will bring – economic, social and environmental – just can’t come soon enough.
“With demand for rail travel is forecast to double over the next two decades, and this investment will transform journey opportunities for thousands of people. “This consultation is an opportunity for people to review and comment on initial proposals. It’s an opportunity to show support for the scheme, or to raise any concerns for consideration before detailed designs are developed further. Input from local people is important in getting things right, so please get involved and have your say.”
Andy Milne, senior programme manager for Network Rail, said:
“This is a great opportunity for people to come and learn more about the project and tell us what they think of our plans. It gives local communities the opportunity to influence how the project will be developed.”
Detailed consultation will also be carried out next spring and this will inform NR who will submit a Planning Application to the Secretary of State for Transport in summer 2016 seeking Consent to complete the work.
The proposed new line brings a huge threat to one preserved railway and a huge opportunity to another. The Bucks Rail Centre will have a 90mph main line running through it which potentially will bring serious operational limitations to their half mile track which currently runs alongside the 30mph freight line. The scoping report says: “The listed buildings at Quainton station (now the site of the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre) are likely to be particularly sensitive receptors”.
But the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway hopes to be operating into Princes Risborough by the time the new line is opened. This means that Bedford, Winlsow and Milton Keynes all become in their catchment area.
Monday 21 September 12pm-8pm
Elim Church, 9 Bell St, Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, HP27 0DE
Wednesday 23 September 12pm-8pm
Rivets Sports and Social Club, Whitehead Way, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP21 8AD
Thursday 24 September 12pm-8pm
John Paul II Centre, Henley House, The Causeway, Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX26 6AW
Friday 25 September 12pm-8pm
Sycamore Hall, Drayton Road, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, MK2 3RR
Monday 28 September 4pm-8pm
and Tuesday 29 September 12pm-8pm
Public Hall, Elmfields Gate, Winslow, Buckinghamshire, MK18 3JG
Wednesday 30 September 12pm-8pm
and Thursday 1 October 12pm-8pm
Forest Centre, Station Road, Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, MK43 0PR
A paper copy of the consultation materials can be viewed at the following locations until 16th October 2015.
Aylesbury Study Centre
Walton Street, Aylesbury, HP20 1UU
Bedford Central Library
Harpur Street, Bedford, MK40 1PG
Westfield Road, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, MK2 2RA
Old Place Yard, Bicester, OX26 6AU
Central Bedfordshire Council
Priory House, Monks Walk, Chicksands, Shefford, SG17 9SB
Princes Risborough Library
Bell Street, Princes Risborough, HP27 0AA
Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre (The meeting room)
Station Road, Ridgmont, MK43 0XP
Winslow Community Library
Park Road, Winslow, MK18 3DN