The new funding includes £760m for the delivery of the next phase of East West Rail, which will reinstate direct Bicester - Bletchley services for the first time since 1968, and £34m to 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.
The works between Bicester and Bletchley are expected to create 1500 jobs. This phase of the project will include the construction of a new station at Winslow as well as enhancements to existing stations, including Bletchley. By 2025, two trains per hour will run between Oxford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley.
The investment on the Northumberland line will fund preparatory works, including land acquisition, detailed design work and early site works. 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.
Submissions have also opened for the third and final round of the Department for Transport’s (DfT) ‘Ideas Fund,’ which is designed to encourage proposals to reopen disused lines, services and stations. The latest round will run until March 5, with successful bids due to be announced later this summer.
The previous two rounds of the fund have so far seen 25 projects awarded up to £50,000 each to develop schemes to restore stations and lines. The fund is part of the wider £500m Restoring Your Railway Fund announced a year ago.
“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,” Shapps says. “Returning these routes to their former glory, and progressing work to reopen even more lines and stations, shows our commitment to levelling up journeys across the country as we build back better from the pandemic.”
“We are delighted that the government has shown a big commitment to East West Rail and the Oxford Cambridge Arc with today’s investment decision,” says East West Railway Company CEO, Mr Simon Blanchflower. “This funding will enable us to get on with the construction work that will connect communities who live on the East West Rail link.”
“The Northumberland Line will bring a huge boost to the area in terms of economic growth, housing, employment and education opportunities, as well as providing a fast and efficient new transport link between the south east of the county and Tyneside,” says Northumberland County Council leader, Mr Glen Sanderson. “This is absolutely fantastic news and means we can now finalise our plans to deliver this transformational project for both Northumberland and the wider region.”