The UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a £794 million (EUR 894.5 million) investment into the next phase of East West Rail and the reopening of the Northumberland line as part of government’s commitments to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic and level up transport infrastructure across the country by investing in rail connections.
“Restoring railways helps put communities back on the map, and this investment forms part of our nationwide effort to build back vital connections and unlock access to jobs, education and housing,” Grant Shapps said.
The investment will reopen two important rail routes closed more than 50 years ago.
A £760 million (EUR 856.2 million) new funding will support the delivery of the next phase of East West Rail and reinstate direct rail services between Bicester and Bletchley for the first time since 1968. The works between Bicester and Bletchley will include the construction of a new stations at Winslow, as well as enhancements to existing stations along the route, including Bletchley. By 2025, 2 trains per hour will run between Oxford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley.
The project is expected to create 1,500 jobs.
It also includes £34 million (EUR 38.3 million) to rapidly progress plans to reopen the Northumberland line between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Ashington, which closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.
“We are delighted that the government has shown a big commitment to East West Rail and the Oxford-Cambridge arc with the investment decision. This funding will enable us to get on with the construction work that will connect communities who live on the East West Rail link,” Simon Blanchflower, Chief Executive Officer at East West Railway Company, said.
The investment on the Northumberland line will fund preparatory works, including land acquisition, detailed design work and early site works. The plans for the project include new stations at Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park in North Tyneside, as well as upgrades to the track and changes to level crossings where bridges or underpasses may need to be built.
The Transport Secretary has also called on local authorities, MPs and community groups to submit bids for a share of the third and final round of the Department for Transport’s Ideas Fund, designed to encourage proposals to reopen railway lines, services and stations. This final round will run until 5 March 2021 with successful bids due to be announced later this summer.