Wednesday 18 Aug 2010


Region & Route:
Wales & Western: Western
| Wales & Western

A bridge over the railway in Oxford is being rebuilt as part of a £71m scheme which will remove up to 50,000 lorry journeys a year from the region’s roads. This will provide a cheaper, quicker and more practical way of transporting goods around the country.

The upgrade of the bridge carrying Old Abingdon Road over the railway at South Hinksey is required to allow bigger 9’6” or ‘high-cube’ containers to be transported efficiently by rail from Associated British Ports' (ABP) Port of Southampton across the country, making a valuable contribution to the local economy and helping Britain compete better in the global marketplace. The route being upgraded stretches from Southampton to the West Coast mainline at Nuneaton via Reading, Didcot, Oxford and Banbury.

The A34 is one of the most congested roads in the country and much of the traffic is HGVs transporting goods to and from Southampton port. With the cost of road congestion to the British economy estimated at more than £10bn a year, the project will provide vital extra capacity to get freight off the roads and onto the railway.

Chris Rayner, Network Rail route director, said: “Britain relies on rail freight to get food onto supermarket shelves, consumer goods into our shops, coal to our power stations and raw materials to manufacturing businesses.  Rail freight directly contributes £870m to the economy, takes tens of thousands of vehicles off the road to reduce congestion and produces 76% less carbon dioxide than road freight.

“Moving freight by rail is greener, faster and cheaper than the roads. Schemes such as the upgrade of the railway between Southampton and the West Midlands are vital for these benefits to be achieved now and into the future.  We thank the people of Oxford for their patience and co-operation while we carry out this important work.”

Work at Old Abingdon Road will begin in November and will be complete by March 2011. The road over the bridge itself will be closed for the majority of this time with some re-openings during December. Engineers will work over Christmas Day and Boxing Day to remove the existing bridge while the railway is closed, meaning rail passengers will not be affected. Residents and local businesses have been informed of the work schedule and will be kept updated throughout the project.

Notes to editors

About the scheme
The route will take freight trains from Southampton to the West Coast Main Line near Nuneaton, via Winchester, Basingstoke, Didcot, Oxford, Banbury, Leamington Spa and Warwick. Improvement works are being planned along this route to structures which are not currently large enough for high-cube containers to pass through. These are scheduled to be complete by spring 2011.

The current freight container market is seeing a significant growth in the percentage of ‘high cube’ containers. The usage of 9’ 6” containers currently stands at over 40%. This is expected to rise to between 50% and 70% by 2019. 

Network Rail, in partnership with the passenger and freight train operators, has consulted with a range of individuals and organisations, including Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council and local politicians throughout the planning of these projects.

Vehicles off the road
It is estimated this scheme will enable the transfer of up to 50,000 container freight journeys a year from the Britain’s roads to the railway. This will help reduce carbon emissions and ease traffic congestion on the road network. 

Rail is also one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transport.  Road freight generates six times more carbon dioxide than rail freight for each tonne moved, so the greater transfer of freight from road to rail as a result of this scheme will lead to a significant reduction of carbon emissions. 

High cube containers are larger than standard containers, and therefore more items can be transported within them, making them a more efficient means of distributing goods. Rail can be a cheaper, quicker and a more practical way for businesses to transport their goods around the country and beyond. At present high cube containers are too big to be carried on standard height platform wagons on much of the rail network. Therefore the only way to carry them by rail is on special low wagons. However, this reduces efficiency and capacity by up to 33%.

Economic growth
The upgraded rail freight link will improve the competitiveness and encourage economic growth within the South East region. This project will also make it easier to import and export goods, helping Britain compete more effectively in the global market.

Funding for this project has been agreed from the Department for Transport (DfT) via a Transport Innovation Fund TIF(P) grant.  Additional funding is being provided by South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), ABP, DP World Southampton, Advantage West Midlands (AWM), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Network Rail Discretionary Fund.

Contact information

Passengers / community members
Network Rail national helpline
03457 11 41 41

Latest travel advice
Please visit National Rail Enquiries

Network Rail press office - South East route
020 3357 7969

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

Follow us on Twitter: @networkrail
Visit our online newsroom: www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk