Wednesday 26 May 2021
Boost to Oxford rail travel following £69m funding confirmation
Oxford station is set to be transformed thanks to a £69m funding boost to improve capacity and journey times and develop plans for a new platform and entrance which will mean more trains will be able to serve the station in the future.
Today (Wednesday 26 May) the Department for Transport confirmed it will be investing into Oxford’s railway, with work set to start next year.
The funding will progress the next stage of development work for the introduction of a new track and platform to be added alongside the existing platform 4, creating an island platform on the west-side of the station. This will significantly improve station capacity from 2024 to accommodate new services, such as East West Rail (EWR). This investment is separate but complimentary to the consultation currently underway on EWR: a project which would see Oxford better connect with destinations to Cambridge.
Designs will also be developed for a new western station entrance that will be built next to Botley Road and will link up to the new platform via a subway. The new entrance will make the station more accessible to people living to the west of the station, reducing walking time by up to three minutes.
As part of the plans the road network will also be improved near to the station as Botley Road bridge will be replaced and the road lowered to enable standard double-decker buses to pass underneath for the first time. As part of the new design, a four-metre wide cycle/footpath will also be installed on each side to encourage sustainable transport and improve safety.
The money will also fund the closure of level crossings to the north of Oxford at Sandy Lane and Yarnton Lane, as well as creating three high-speed crossovers at Oxford North Junction. These changes will help make the line safer, as well as enabling additional Oxford to Birmingham passenger services and reduce journey times for passengers by up to two minutes.
It will also generate an increase in capacity along the corridor to accommodate an additional 12 freight trains per day along this key part of the country’s strategic freight network, which will help ensure fuel reaches the petrol pumps, food makes it onto supermarket shelves and household waste is taken to recycling depots.
Early consultations about the proposals have taken place with local residents ahead of the plans being formally submitted to Oxford City Council. Further funding is required for the full implementation of the scheme and the Full Business Case for the project will be submitted to DfT later this year, with a decision on final funding expected in spring 2022.
Claire Mahoney, Network Rail industry programme director, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this government funding. The rail network in Oxfordshire plays a vital role in transporting passengers and freight around the country.
“With Oxford station close to full capacity, these plans for a new platform and western entrance are key to enabling an increase in passenger services, such as East-West Rail, as well as paving the way for wider station development in the future.”
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Our investment in Oxford’s rail infrastructure will enable major improvements to freight links between the Port of Southampton and the Midlands, and pave the way for improved passenger services.
“Modernising and upgrading our vital transport links is critical to levelling up every part of this country, unleashing our economy and spreading opportunity.”
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “I welcome this announcement about the redevelopment of the western side of Oxford station which is much needed. This is a critical next step to boost rail capacity, frequency and connectivity across the region.
“Rail will be an important part of the city, the county’s and the region’s economic recovery and this funding will enable Oxford’s railway station to support the transport links we need for the future. Improving rail connectivity into and through Oxford will help tackle congestion and provide fast, low-carbon transport.
“Investment in the station itself remains central to unlocking the transformation of the west end of Oxford into a globally significant innovation district, providing high quality office, R&D and other employment space, as well as improved public spaces and many more homes.”
“We will work with our rail and other partners to ensure that Oxford’s station is a worthy gateway to our city.”
Councillor Duncan Enright, Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Oxfordshire is real a growth success story and making certain connected transport routes and infrastructure keep ahead of the pace of this growth is vital.
“The county council is delighted to play an integral part of this investment at Oxford station. Enhanced rail capacity connectivity through Oxford Station will significantly improve travel by train for passengers across Oxfordshire and allow more rail freight, reducing pressure on our roads. It is vital to allow further upgrades to Oxfordshire’s rail network to take place, bringing new services and new stations. It will also mean improved access to the station buses and a much-enhanced cycle infrastructure to offer travellers real options to make their journeys ever more sustainably.”
Jeremy Long, Chair of OxLEP, said: “We are very pleased to see this commitment to the first stage of the significant planned investment in Oxfordshire’s rail infrastructure, which will bring about major improvements to north-south and east-west connectivity, and access by rail in-and-out of the city.
“The Oxfordshire economy can also play a major role in supporting the national economic recovery from COVID-19 and this investment will go a long way to enabling many of our globally-significant sectors and emerging transformative technologies.
“The investment also supports innovation-led projects within close proximity of Oxford station, including the University of Oxford-led and OxLEP-backed Osney Mead Innovation Quarter – a development that will see the creation of exciting new, cutting-edge research facilities, commercial space and accommodation.”
GWR Business Development Director Tom Pierpoint said: “This is great news for Oxford and the wider economic recovery of the region as we build back better after the pandemic.
“Oxford is one of the busiest stations on our network, with a total footfall of almost 9 million during 2019. These plans will enable it to grow further and provide some significant improvements to passengers' experience, and we welcome the progress announced today.”
EWR Co CEO, Simon Blanchflower CBE, said: “We welcome this announcement for Oxford Station as it will be a key destination for the EWR link, enabling people to be better connected and have meaningful accessibility. This is central to everything we strive to do and we fully support this exciting development.”
More information about the rail network in Oxfordshire, including the plans for Oxford station and the wider area strategy can be found at https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/our-routes/western/oxfordshire/
Notes to Editors
These plans are the latest phase of the ‘Oxford Corridor Improvement Scheme’ which has so far seen £260m invested in increasing capacity and improving facilities for passengers.
Previous work as part of this Scheme has included the addition of two new platforms on the east side of the station in 2016 to allow for a new train service to be introduced from Oxford to London Marylebone.
Network Rail is also working with Oxford City Council to support their work on a masterplan for Oxford station. This is looking at potential development opportunities for the wider station area, that would incorporate additional requirements for future growth in rail, as well as improving the wider environment to help transform the gateway to the city.
A complementary study into how the rail network in Oxfordshire can support regional economic growth across the county over the medium and long-term is set to be published within the next month.
This investment is separate but complementary to the consultation currently underway on EWR: a project which would see Oxford better connect with destinations to Cambridge.
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