A new £130m rail link between Oxford and London has been given approval with journeys set to start in 2015.
The Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, approved the proposal from Chiltern Railways on 18th October. The route will link London’s Marylebone station and a new station at Water Eaton in North Oxford. The proposal also contains plans for two new platforms at Oxford’s current station.
Chiltern Railways has said the scheme would be the first new rail link between London and a major British city for 100 years, estimating journey times between Oxford and London would be 66 minutes, and 14 minutes between Oxford and Bicester making student access to the Bicester Village fashion outlet centre easier, as current rail links take approximately 25 minutes.
A fresher at Merton, Jezah Khaimsa said: “I’m happy to hear about news for new plans; more ways to get home is never a bad thing. Plus some of my international friends complain that links between the airports and Oxford aren’t that good so maybe this will help them.”
However Rose Shendi, a fresher at Corpus disagreed with the idea, saying: “There are already plenty of links between Oxford and London, on trains and with the Oxford Tube. They need to develop more plans to get to other parts of the country more easily. I’m sure a lot of students would be more grateful for that.”
The line is said to only need 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometres) of new track, as it will follow the existing line to Birmingham, then deviate onto the new track linking Bicester and Oxford. However, it will also include upgrading 10 miles of dilapidated track and redevelopment of the station at Bicester to essentially create a new station.
The project gives thousands of Oxford commuters, and students, a new choice for travelling to London and opens up routes that have been closed for 60 years, such as that to High Wycombe. Chiltern plans to offer two services an hour between London and Oxford, matching the frequency on the existing route from Paddington.
Graham Cross, Chiltern Railways’ business development director said it had taken more than two years to get approval: “We have been through some arduous hoops.” The main opposition to the proposal was the presence of bats in a tunnel on the route, which caused conservation fears. However, this was overcome after successful trials of a system using lights that warned the bats of approaching trains.
The plans are also intended to help alleviate congestion on the roads. Hugh Jaeger, spokesman for Thames Valley branch of Rail Future said: “This will save thousands of passengers the grief of trying to get into Oxford and getting stuck in Botley Road… the scheme also raises pressure for Oxford to have a better railway station.
He added: “We are pleased to have been granted the power to proceed with this significant railway investment, [it] will benefit thousands of commuters and businesses in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.”