Economic benefit of East West Rail could boost annual GDP by £73 million, ‘double previous estimates’, according to independent experts.
An assessment of the economic impact of the Western Section of East West Rail by Arup, an independent engineering and consultancy firm, shows the scheme could boost the regional economy by £72.7 million per year. This is almost double the £38 million previously forecast by Oxford Economics in 2010.
The significant increase is attributed to greater investment in the scheme, including electrification and other track improvements, and the benefits of the proposed service patterns and destinations served.
Councillor Rodney Rose of Oxfordshire County Council and Chair of the East West Rail (Western Section) Joint Delivery Board said: “We have always known that East West Rail will bring substantial benefits to our region.
“These findings serve to reinforce the extraordinary case for investment in the railway and show just how important it is to our region. Consortium members are contributing £45m to the scheme which represents serious value for money when you consider the benefits.”
Arup identified that the East West Rail line, which will connect Winslow and Bicester with Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford by March 2019 and also include a line from Aylesbury to Milton Keynes via Winslow, will substantially improve rail connections for business and leisure travel.
The scheme for the Western Section received government support in 2011 and was confirmed as a priority scheme to be delivered in the Department for Transport’s five-year spending period 2014 to 2019. Since then further enhancements to the line have been identified to accommodate anticipated future demand for additional passenger and freight services.
Electrification of the line between Oxford and Bedford will see the railway become an integral part of the national ‘Electric Spine’ from Southampton on the south coast to the midlands and intermodal hubs in the north east of England. This will allow more freight carriage by rail, removing lorries from roads.
Alex Pratt, chair of the Bucks and Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership said: “This is brilliant. We know there has been a trend of underinvestment in rail and transport infrastructure in our region for more than a decade.
“Investment in East West Rail will do much to improve transport links and make our region even more attractive for businesses. It will help to create the right environment for existing business to flourish and attract inward investment and new businesses to the area. This in turn will increase prosperity and generate thousands of new jobs for our region’s growing population. It cannot come soon enough!”