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East West Rail appears achievable but ‘significant issues’ still exist, says government body

East West Rail is no longer considered to be “unachievable” but there are still “significant issues”, a government body has said.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority has rated the project as ‘amber’ in its annual report, after rating it ‘red’ last year.

East West Rail drop-in event at the Graduate hotel in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
East West Rail drop-in event at the Graduate hotel in Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

East West Rail said the improved rating reflected its hard work over the last year on “continuing to refresh the business case”.

The East West Rail project plans to create a new rail link between Oxford and Cambridge.

Earlier this year the company announced its preferred choice for the new rail line route from Bedford to Cambridge.

The new line is proposed to go from Bedford to a new train station in Tempsford, south of St Neots, before heading to a new station in Cambourne, and then connecting to Cambridge from the south of the city, through the new Cambridge South station.

The East West Rail connection stages two and three – the upgrading of existing infrastructure between Bletchley and Bedford, and the new train line between Bedford and Cambridge – had been rated ‘red’ by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority last year.

This meant that at the time it considered ‘successfully delivering the project appeared unachievable’.

However, in its report to the Cabinet Office and Treasury this year on the country’s major projects, it has now rated East West Rail as ‘amber’.

It said an amber rating meant “successful delivery appears feasible but significant issues already exist, requiring management attention”.

The report said the issues “appear resolvable at this stage, if addressed promptly” and that it should not cause a cost or schedule overrun.

A spokesperson for East West Rail said: “This rating upgrade reflects the hard work we have put in over the past year on continuing to refresh the business case and test options for the future development of East West Rail, which led to the recent route update announcement that provided more certainty for local communities.

“Using consultation feedback and further studies – including environmental surveys – we continue to refine plans for the railway and expect to share more detailed proposals at a statutory public consultation in the first half of 2024, before passengers between Oxford and Milton Keynes can start to benefit from a new, greener way to travel when the first passenger services are introduced there in 2025.”

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