East West Rail should extend coast to coast as East West Main Line, says partnership of councils
Calls for an East West Main Line that would provide a coast-to-coast rail connection from South Wales to Suffolk and Norfolk have been made by a partnership of councils.
The East West Rail Consortium, which has campaigned for the reinstatement of a railway between Oxford and East Anglia for more than 25 years, relaunched as the East West Main Line Partnership to underscore its ambitions.
Established by local authorities in 1995, the consortium has played a fundamental role in establishing the basis for the existing £5billion East West Rail line plans, which will connect Oxford to Cambridge by 2030.
With construction of the Oxford-Bletchley/Milton Keynes section of the new line now well under way, the partnership is now championing the long-term opportunity for true, coast-to-coast connectivity.
Cllr Steven Broadbent, chair of the East West Main Line Partnership, said: “Supporting the delivery of East West Rail between Oxford and Cambridge at the earliest opportunity and making sure there is appropriate mitigation for local communities during its construction remains fundamental to the partnership’s purpose.
“However, we have always been clear that delivery of the current East West Rail proposal should be just the beginning of the transformation in connectivity.
“That’s why we’re championing the ambition for an East West Main Line to truly realise the transformational potential of the government’s investment. The main line will boost the regional and UK economy and enable businesses to compete on a global scale, unlocking opportunities for residents, and reducing reliance on road vehicles to achieve net zero emissions.
“Changing our name reflects our role in championing the East West Main Line to transform connectivity across the UK, supporting the ambitions of the proposed strategic transport network outlined in the Union Connectivity Review’s interim report.”
The partnership’s strategic board includes an array of councils, including the county councils for Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Oxfordshire, and district councils including South Cambridgeshire and North Hertfordshire.
Among their aims is ensuring the line is electrified and ‘digitally-enabled’ – providing digital connectivity to nearby communities – from the start. So far, East West Rail Company has failed to commit to electrification from the outset.
The partnership said the line must also be built with communities at its heart, meaning “appropriate mitigation during construction, and quality local connectivity to stations when it is opened”.
The group called for frictionless interchanges, including with other modes of transport, and said it was vital the line contributes to the requirements of the national rail freight strategy, while making the strongest case for prioritisation of the Felixstowe-Nuneaton corridor.
They could have their work cut out, however, with the route for East West Rail between Bedford and Cambridge proving controversial enough, with many campaigners and residents expressing concern about the impact it will have on existing communities.