East-West rail threatened with seven-year delay

A test train on the new Chiltern route NNL-150910-130900001
A test train on the new Chiltern route NNL-150910-130900001

A long-awaited scheme to put Aylesbury at the centre of a new East-West railway link could be delayed by up to seven years.

East West Rail (EWR), which is part of Network Rail’s 2014-19 development plan, aims to connect Oxford and Aylesbury with Bletchley, Milton Keynes and Bedford.

But a new official report proposes delaying the scheme past its planned 2019 completion - and county chiefs warn that this could mean a “very real risk” to the local economy.

Councillor Mark Shaw, Buckinghamshire County Council’s transport cabinet member, and vice-chairman of the EWR Consortium, said: “We want to understand Network Rail’s position, and to stress the critical importance of East West Rail to the local and regional economy.

“We’re working to build a strident economy, and I have a real concern about the effect on economic momentum if East West Rail isn’t delivered on time.”

East-West Rail is predicted to be worth around £73million to the local economy.

That includes increasing tax revenue by £34million, and help generate up to 12,000 jobs.

But the government 
-commissioned Hendy Report is expected to recommend a range of delays to the scheme.

These include deferring the Bicester to Bedford section, including a new station at Winslow, until 2022, and the Aylesbury to Milton Keynes connection for another two years.

There would also be a further two-year delay to connections to Princes Risborough.

Mr Shaw has asked all five Buckinghamshire MPs for their support in lobbying the government.

He added: “We’re doing what the government wants us to do – encouraging house building, stimulating economic growth, creating a climate for job creation.

“Without the delivery of East West Rail on time, we’re concerned about a very real risk to investment in Buckinghamshire and beyond.”

Members of the EWR Consortium have to date invested £5million towards East-West Rail. They have also committed a further £45.3 million – as required when they secured government funding and support in 2011.