A NEW railway between Milton Keynes and Bedford for the East West Rail project has been suggested as a way of avoiding problems with the Marston Vale line, where the hourly stopping service and numerous level crossings limit capacity for through regional trains.

The proposal was put forward by East West Rail Company Chairman Rob Brighouse in an address to the Railway Industry Association’s annual innovation conference on 7 March 2018. EWR Co, set up by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, is acting as a client organisation for the East West Rail Phase 2 (EWR2) scheme, where a design and build alliance of Network Rail with Atkins, Laing O’Rourke and VolkerRail is working on the project. This scheme will link Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley, and Milton Keynes to London Marylebone via Aylesbury. Mr Brighouse said his aim is that EWR2 should be ready by the end of 2022, improving on the existing target of the Bicester route in 2023 and the Aylesbury route in 2024 (p11, January issue).

He said new build from Milton Keynes to Bedford would avoid problems with the old Marston Vale route, although he conceded such an option might be expensive. ‘From Bedford to Cambridge there is a blank canvas’ Mr Brighouse went on, adding that EWR is seeking to leverage in funds from the private sector and introduce innovative ways of doing things when building a new railway on this stretch. Responding to a challenge from Chancellor Philip Hammond to speed up construction on this section, Mr Brighouse said he would like to open here in 2027.