Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin visited Oxfordshire to officially mark the start of work on a new rail route between Oxford and London.
The Transport Secretary visited a construction site near Bicester North Station to hear how work on the new east-west rail scheme will transform travel across the region.
The rail route between Oxford and London Marylebone will be the first new link between a major British city and the capital for more than a century. It is part of the wider east-west rail line scheme, which is set to reinstate the railway between Oxford, Bletchley, Milton Keynes and Bedford, improving connections and services for passengers and freight.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
Our railways are a success story and we are building on that success through record levels of investment. The start of work on this new route is proof our investment is paying off, with improved connections boosting services across the region for the benefit of passengers and local businesses.
The Transport Secretary started his tour with a visit to the site of the planned Oxford Parkway station before moving on to the construction site where work is already underway to build a short length of new track in Bicester, which will allow trains from Oxford to link to the Chiltern mainline and travel to London.
Once completed, it will not only provide Oxfordshire with a new rail route to the capital but improve services between Bicester and Oxford, and re-establish a direct rail link between Oxford and High Wycombe. Services are planned to start from Oxford Parkway in Summer 2015 and from Oxford city centre in Spring 2016.
The next stage of the east-west rail scheme, which will reinstate the disused railway between Bicester and Bletchley, is due to be completed by the end of 2017. Electrification of the whole route between Oxford and Bedford is expected to be completed in 2019.
Shortly after the visit to Bicester North, the Transport Secretary visited Dodwell in Warwickshire to see the site of planned improvement works on the A5. The £4.7 million scheme will widen the approach and install traffic lights at the Dodwell roundabout, tackling congestion during the rush hour. Work is set to start in autumn and conclude in the winter and is part of the government’s pinch point programme – a raft of schemes to tackle bottle necks on the road network.
He concluded the tour with a visit to Nuneaton Railway Station where he discussed the progress of the proposed Coventry-Nuneaton Rail Upgrade scheme with local MP Marcus Jones. The department is currently assessing the business case for the scheme, which aims to improve access between the town and city and stimulate economic growth.