Increased rail capacity between Oxford and Didcot should be treated as a priority if the economy – both locally and nationally – is to prosper.
England’s Economic Heartland (EEH) – a partnership of local authorities from Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Milton Keynes, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire and Swindon – has written to the Department for Transport demanding the rail link be improved.
Heather Smith, the partnership’s strategic transport forum chairman, said in a document: “There should be explicit recognition of the need to develop the role of Oxford as a rail hub to be realised.
“The need to address the capacity constraints on the Didcot to Oxford section of the network have already been identified – not just to the benefit of the Heartland economy but also the wider UK economy.”
The government has launched a consultation on how the Great Western rail network could be improved from April 2020.
EEH said delivery of East West Rail, which will span from Oxford to Cambridge, via Milton Keynes, is a ‘catalyst’ for a review into whether the current rail franchise map is fit for purpose.
Yvonne Constance, responsible for the environment and economy at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Improving rail links within Oxfordshire and across the wider region is absolutely crucial to achieving our economic ambitions.
“The service between Oxford and Didcot is a hugely important part of the network. Providing more capacity and a better experience for passengers should now be addressed as a priority.”