Tunnel bats leave town rail upgrades hanging

BATS have led to more delays in plans for a £130million rail link between Oxford and London via Bicester.

A public inquiry into Chiltern Railways’ plans was first halted in November, when a government planning inspector said more needed to be done to protect bats living in the Wolvercote tunnel.

Plans looked like they were moving forward earlier this year after Chiltern and Natural England agreed a range of measures to protect bats, including a traffic light system to warn bats of approaching trains.

But Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening is due to reopen the inquiry on Tuesday, May 29 to give the bats’ welfare more consideration.

Rob Brighouse, managing director of Chiltern Railways, said: “While it is disappointing the inquiry has been reopened, we welcome the opportunity to demonstrate further, in public, the lengths we have gone to deal with the issues raised and to protect the local environment.

“We remain committed and confident about the project and we look forward to receiving the final permission from the Secretary of State in the near future.”

Bicester Town Station will be redeveloped as part of the new link between Oxford and London Marylebone.

Chiltern Railways says once the scheme has been given the go-ahead, it will re-evaluate the project schedule before beginning construction. The new line is set to open in 2014.