Public inquiry begins for East West rail link through Aylesbury and Winslow

The East West Rail scheme will take a step forward this week with the start of the public inquiry in Milton Keynes for phase two of the development.

From Wednesday 6 February, the inquiry will sit for 40 days over a period of 12 weeks, where planners will hear proposals for the latest phase of the of the wider initiative to reconnect Cambridge to Oxford.

East West Rail route clearance work

East West Rail route clearance work

If approved it will be the first direct rail link between Oxford and Bedford, and Milton Keynes and Aylesbury in over 50 years.

Bucks County councillor Mark Shaw, chairman of the East West Rail Consortium, which has campaigned for the reopening of this rail service since 1995, said:

“After more than 20 years of campaigning, the start of the public inquiry is a key moment in the project’s history.

"We are confident that the case for the investment is solid, but it is absolutely right that the inquiry examines the proposal in detail so that stakeholders and residents’ concerns are taken into account by the inspector, before a final decision is made.”

Map showing phases one and two of the East West Rail scheme

Map showing phases one and two of the East West Rail scheme

The project is being built in three phases – two for the western section, and a third relating to the central section.

Phase one, which connected Oxford to Bicester, was completed in December 2016. Phase two, for which the current public inquiry relates, will extend services from Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury.

Colin Murphy, head of consenting and environment for Network Rail working on the East West Rail project, said:

“The start of public inquiry signifies a key milestone and phase of the consenting process. Our aim now is to ensure the planning inspector is presented with the information needed to examine and assess the merits of our proposals, against the views of others, on whether to recommend to the Secretary of State for Transport that the order should be made.”

Winslow town councillor Roger Slevin said:

“Winslow town council has generally been very supportive of the scheme. We did raise some points with Network Rail but satisfactory solutions were found so our objection has been withdrawn.”

The proposal for phase three, the central section, which will connect Bedford to Cambridge, is currently under development. This paper has contacted Network Rail for estimated timelines.

For more information visit: Network Rail East West Rail Scheme