England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance has welcomed the publication of Network Rail’s West Midlands and Chilterns Route Study, which recommends connecting the Chiltern mainline to Old Oak Common.
The study sets out how demand on the Chiltern line has increased in the last decade, and will grow further with major housing development in Aylesbury, Bicester and Princes Risborough. However, the Chiltern Line’s London terminus at Marylebone is approaching its maximum capacity.
The study therefore recommends connecting the Chiltern mainline to Old Oak Common, which when it opens in 2026 will be one of London’s major transport hubs and an interchange for the Heathrow Express, Crossrail, HS2 and the Great Western mainline. This would result in up to four additional trains per hour into London while offering passengers greater choice when travelling into the capital.
The study was produced in partnership with England’s Economic Heartland, which brings together nine local authorities and four Local Enterprise Partnerships that sit at the heart of the corridor of growth from Cambridge through Milton Keynes and Northampton to Oxford.
For many years the Alliance partners have promoted East West Rail as a critical piece of strategic infrastructure to enable economic growth. Connecting the Chiltern mainline to Old Oak Commonfurther strengthens the strategic importance of the scheme, which will enable north-south services from Milton Keynes to Aylesbury and onto London via Princes Risborough.
Councillor Heather Smith, chairman of the Alliance’s Strategic Transport Forum, said: “We really welcome the partnership between the Alliance and Network Rail in the production of this important study. It sets out a blueprint for rail improvements over the next few decades which would significantly increase economic opportunities in the region.
“We have long identified the opportunities that East West Rail brings to improve north-south connectivity and in particular the opportunity to provide strategic linkages to the development opportunities at Old Oak Common and Park Royal, so we’re delighted that this features so prominently in the study.
“We look forward to working with Network Rail and the Department for Transport to develop proposals that will see this opportunity realised – and also to working with the London Mayor who has likewise identified the need for investment in strategic linkages as part of his draft Transport Strategy.”
Network Rail’s study also recommends that by 2024 Marylebone Station should be upgraded, with 1,000 extra train seats per hour coming into the terminus during peak times, alongside longer platforms at key stations.
And looking towards 2043, it wants the route between Aylesbury and Princes Risborough to be double tracked for greater capacity and speed.
The East West Rail Consortium is working closely with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to enable the next stage of the scheme to start on site as soon as possible.
The National Infrastructure Commission also highlighted the scheme’s strategic importance in its report published in November – and said with the right infrastructure, the Heartland area could become Britain’s answer to Silicon Valley.