East West Rail

Rail (UK) - - Con­tents - Paul Stephen paul.stephen@bauer­me­dia.co.uk

East West Rail Com­pany is of­fi­cially launched to ex­pe­dite the re­con­struc­tion of the Ox­ford-Cam­bridge Var­sity Line.

THE East West Rail­way Com­pany was of­fi­cially launched by Sec­re­tary of State for Trans­port Chris Grayling on De­cem­ber 14, to over­see the re­con­struc­tion and even­tual oper­a­tion of the for­mer Var­sity Line be­tween Ox­ford and Cam­bridge.

Grayling met with EWR’s in­terim chair­man Rob Brig­house, Milton Keynes South MP Iain Stew­art and re­gional coun­cil lead­ers to make the an­nounce­ment at Bletch­ley sta­tion, which will be­come the half­way point of the new line when it is com­pleted in the mid-2020s.

The line is be­ing de­liv­ered in two stages, with con­struc­tion al­ready un­der way to com­plete the west­ern sec­tion be­tween Ox­ford and Bed­ford. This is due to open by 2024, af­ter the Gov­ern­ment con­firmed dur­ing the Au­tumn Bud­get in Novem­ber that an es­ti­mated £1 bil­lion worth of fund­ing would be made avail­able to the East West Rail Al­liance (com­pris­ing Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, Volker Rail and Net­work Rail) to re­store a dis­used sec­tion of rail­way be­tween Bices­ter and Bletch­ley ( RAIL 841).

EWR has been es­tab­lished to ac­cel­er­ate delivery of the line’s cen­tral sec­tion be­tween Bed­ford and Cam­bridge via Sandy, which was dis­man­tled af­ter clo­sure in 1967. Route de­ci­sions have yet to be taken be­cause parts of the orig­i­nal align­ment have since been built on, but the Gov­ern­ment is nev­er­the­less tar­get­ing an open­ing date within two years of the west­ern sec­tion.

Grayling said: “This route should never have been closed in the first place, and it will be the big­gest re­open­ing since the Beech­ing era [of clo­sures in the 1960s]. It’s great to be here to kick off the process for an or­gan­i­sa­tion that will do just that.”

EWR has also been es­tab­lished as a ve­hi­cle to pri­vately fi­nance and build the cen­tral sec­tion in­de­pen­dently of Net­work Rail. It will be a ver­ti­cally in­te­grated or­gan­i­sa­tion re­spon­si­ble for op­er­at­ing both the train ser­vices and in­fra­struc­ture ( RAIL 822).

Grayling said this de­ci­sion is not in­tended to threaten NR’s cur­rent mo­nop­oly as the UK’s track au­thor­ity with re­spon­si­bil­ity for de­liv­er­ing en­hance­ments, but in­stead would pro­vide a use­ful bench­mark for the ef­fi­ciency of its pro­ject delivery and cost-con­trol. It would also be a tar­geted ‘test­bed’ for third party fi­nance while NR iden­ti­fies fur­ther opportunities across the net­work.

He added: “EWR is not about fully pri­vatis­ing the rail­way, it’s about get­ting in­no­va­tion in where there is an op­por­tu­nity to gen­er­ate hous­ing de­vel­op­ment and eco­nomic growth. This is the test­bed, and EWR will be tak­ing the lead to at­tract pri­vate fi­nance and pro­vide a bit of com­pe­ti­tion to NR.

“What I ex­pect to see when this opens is an in­te­grated busi­ness op­er­at­ing ser­vices on this route and per­haps fur­ther afield. But we are not go­ing to sell the rail­ways - we are just find­ing a dif­fer­ent way to de­liver it.”

The cre­ation of EWR forms part of an over­ar­ch­ing high­level vi­sion, pub­lished by the Gov­ern­ment along­side the

Au­tumn Bud­get, to stim­u­late eco­nomic and hous­ing growth in the Ox­ford-Milton Key­nesCam­bridge cor­ri­dor. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional In­fra­struc­ture Com­mis­sion, the an­nual eco­nomic out­put of the re­gion could be up to £163bn higher by 2050 as a re­sult of tar­geted in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments, in­clud­ing im­proved rail con­nec­tiv­ity.

Re­spond­ing to the an­nounce­ment, Rail­way In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Dar­ren Ca­plan said: “We fully sup­port East West Rail and are ex­cited to see the launch of the East West Rail­way Com­pany to re­store the rail link be­tween two cen­tres of in­no­va­tion - Ox­ford and Cam­bridge.

“The cre­ation of the new com­pany also pro­vides opportunities to se­cure pri­vate in­vest­ment, which can en­hance the bal­ance of tax­payer and pas­sen­ger fund­ing. As in­formed play­ers in the sec­tor, rail sup­pli­ers can bring new ideas and meth­ods to the delivery of projects such as these, en­sur­ing they are built and main­tained in the best pos­si­ble way. It re­ally is ex­cit­ing news all round.”

FULLBROOK. KIM

The newly formed East West Rail­way Com­pany will op­er­ate in­fra­struc­ture and train ser­vices on the re­built Var­sity Line be­tween Ox­fordCam­bridge from the mid-2020s. This in­cludes Swan­bourne (Buck­ing­hamshire), where the line has been dis­used since 1993. On...

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