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Shapps announces £794m railway funding

Railway tracks / iStock-624925672

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has set aside a £794 million investment package to reopen two railway routes that have been closed for 50 years.

Of this funding, £760 million will go towards the next phase of East West Rail, which will see the reopening of the Bicester and Bletchley line. It has been closed since 1968. 

The East West Rail is intended to provide better connectivity along the so-called Oxford-Cambridge Arc to reduce journey times between routes outside of London, and create 1,500 skilled jobs.

A new station is to be built at Winslow at this phase of the project, and enhancements to existing stations along the route to Bletchley will be made. By 2025, two trains an hour should run between Oxford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley.

Simon Blanchflower, chief executive officer at East West Railway Company, said: “This funding will enable us to get on with the construction work that will connect communities who live on the East West Rail link.

“We are committed to improving connectivity across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, and fully recognise our responsibility to ensure that it is delivered in a way that minimises disruption, supports the regional economy, maximises benefits and supports jobs across the region.”

In 1964 the Northumberland line between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Ashington closed as a result of the Beeching cuts. A £34 million investment 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.

Shapps said: “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.

“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.”

Image credit | iStock