The completion of a rail link between Oxford and Milton Keynes, which will pass through Bicester, Winslow and Aylesbury, has been delayed until 2019, Network Rail has announced.
The East-West rail scheme was due to be completed by December 2017, but Network Rail has penned it in to be finished by March 2019.
The £250 million project will see a spur line from Aylesbury to Milton Keynes via Winslow where a new station will be built.
Winslow will also benefit by being on a new line between Oxford, Bicester, Milton Keynes and Bedford.
Construction work between Oxford and Bicester has already started and is due to be complete by March 2016.‘Phase two’, which includes work between Bicester and Bedford, Winslow and Aylesbury will be started after this.
Part of the reason for the delay has been put down to the Government now wanting to electrify the Oxford-Bedford line. This is over and above the scheme promoted by the East West Rail Consortium and significantly changes the scope of the project.
An East-West Rail spokesman said: “The Network Rail plan sets out its commitment to deliver the core East West Rail scheme as proposed by the consortium within the five-year spending period ending March 2019.
“In view of the proposed enhancements to the scheme over and above the original proposal, we do not have a definitive date for services to start operating but the consortium will continue to work closely with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to facilitate its successful delivery as soon as is practicable within this period.”
Chairman of the consortium, Janet Blake, said the scheme’s inclusion in the delivery plan is ‘another positive step towards the railway becoming a reality’.
“We will continue to work closely with Network Rail and the Department for Transport to oversee and support its successful delivery, to have services running at the earliest opportunity and to unlock the significant benefits the improved rail connections will bring to individuals, communities and businesses in our region.”
However, Winslow councillor Llew Monger said he was disappointed with the delay.
He said: “A further two year delay in the delivery of rail services for Winslow and North Bucks is really disappointing and could well hinder our efforts to bring new employment opportunities to Winslow. Winslow Town Council will keep a close watch on developments and maintain pressure for this service to be delivered as soon as possible.”
Chris Wright, from Oxon and Bucks Rail Action Committee, said he was disappointed with the delay.
But he added: “However, we’ve been waiting 25 years so we can wait a bit longer!”
Network Rail has released its five-year plan called Delivering a Better Railway for a Better Britain which outlines plans to invest £38billion on the construction of new tracks, the renovation of stations and the upgrade of existing lines.
To read the Network Rail report, visit www.betterrailway.co.uk.