TRANSPORT SECRETARY Chris Grayling has officially launched the East West Rail Company, which will oversee the restoration of the link between Oxford and Cambridge. The event took place nearly 50 years to the day since the closure of the old Varsity line linking the university cities.

The aim is to complete the new link in the mid-2020s. There are two separate projects underpinning it – the western section will connect Bicester and Aylesbury to Bedford and Milton Keynes, and mostly involves upgrading disused or freight-only lines. This is planned to be delivered conventionally by Network Rail and completed by the end of Control Period 6 in 2024. The central section linking Bedford to Cambridge will require a greater proportion of new-build construction as the former track bed no longer exists, and the plan is for the EWR Company to leverage private sector investment to support this. In his autumn budget Chancellor Philip Hammond challenged the industry to accelerate delivery of this section so it opens by the mid-2020s. The Department for Transport says the aim is to build a route that allows future upgrades to be incorporated with as little disruption as possible.

Former Chiltern Railways managing director and now Network Rail non-executive director Rob Brighouse has been appointed interim chair of the East West Rail Company, with former London Overground MD Peter Austin recently recruited as EWR’s MD.