Secretary of state for transport, Mr Grant Shapps, confirmed the approval of the next stage of the much delayed project on February 4. Work will now commence on track and signalling upgrades between Bicester, Aylesbury, Milton Keynes and Bedford including reinstating a disused section of railway between Claydon Junction and Bletchley.

The improvements will enable the line to support two trains per hour per direction between Oxford and Milton Keynes; one train per hour per direction between Oxford and Bedford; and one train per hour per direction between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes. The first passenger trains are expected to run in 2023.

Stage One of the scheme - reopening of the Oxford - Bicester section - took place in December 2016. An alignment for stage three of the project, the link between Bedford and Cambridge, was confirmed last week. An Arup-led consortium was appointed to undertake preparatory work on the section in November.

The mothballed section of railway between Bicester and Bletchley

“This has to go down as one of the most exciting weeks in the history of East West Rail, with approval to begin major construction of the Western section coming just days after the preferred route between Bedford and Cambridge was announced,” says councillor Mr Mark Shaw, chairman of the East West Rail Consortium, an alliance of local authorities which produced the original business case for the scheme.

“East West Rail will transform the way people travel within and across the region, supporting communities, boosting businesses, unlocking job opportunities, and getting people out of their cars. The consortium and the local authorities along the line will continue to work with NR and its partners to ensure the western section is now delivered as quickly and smoothly as possible.”