Projects to restore axed rail routes get £794m boost
- Credit: East West Rail Consortium
A multi-million pound project to restore rail routes axed more than 50 years ago could pave the way for better connectivity for Norfolk and Suffolk.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said £760m will support the next phase of East West Rail to reinstate services between Bicester, Oxfordshire and Bletchley, Buckinghamshire for the first time since 1968.
The project is part of a wider wish-list that could unlock faster journey times and more services between Norwich and Cambridge, and Ipswich and Cambridge, as well as direct links to Oxford.
Extending the route is tipped as providing a £17.5bn boost to the East Anglian economy and creating tens of thousands of jobs as well as improved journey times and service frequencies to Oxford – and potentially to Cardiff or Bristol.
An East West Rail Consortium report also calls for the line to provide a cross-country freight link between Felixstowe and the south west and Wales.
Chris Starkie, chief executive of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) hailed it as "really good news" adding: "It is building new track to construct the first part of the missing sections and an important vote of confidence in the project."
Announcing the funding Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged local authorities, MPs and community groups to submit bids for a share of the third and final round of the DfT's Ideas Fund to support plans for new routes and reinstatements.
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He said: "Restoring railways helps put communities back on the map and this investment forms part of our nationwide effort to build back vital connections and unlock access to jobs, education and housing.
"Returning these routes to their former glory, and progressing work to reopen even more lines and stations, shows our commitment to levelling up journeys across the country as we build back better from the pandemic."
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Simon Blanchflower, chief executive at East West Railway Company, which is overseeing the project, said: "We are delighted that the Government has shown a big commitment to East West Rail and the Oxford-Cambridge Arc with today's investment decision.
"This funding will enable us to get on with the construction work that will connect communities who live on the East West Rail link."
Meanwhile, a scheme to reopen the Northumberland Line between Newcastle and Ashington - which closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts - will be given £34 million to boost its development.