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County will plough £11m into huge new rail project
COUNCIL bosses are likely to agree to spend £11.1m on a scheme linking Oxford’s rail network to Milton Keynes and Bedford.
But some of the costs could come from work it carries out, such as on roads associated with the scheme.
Money given to the council from developers to pay for transport improvements when major developments are approved – called section 106 agreements – could also be used.
The Conservative-run council would pay £737,334 a-year from 2014 to 2028. That would help to pay to re-open a disused line from Oxford to Bicester, Bletchley, Milton Keynes and Bedford, with the chance of a later extension to East Anglia.
Most of the £500m funding will come from the Government, but councils in the Thames Valley have been asked to put in £50m.
Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury, Milton Keynes, Central Bedfordshire and Bedford councils will put in the rest.
Cherwell District Council’s executive was also set to meet in private last night to discuss its contribution.
The news was welcomed by Oxford to Bicester Rail Action Group chairman Ian East, who said: “It is excellent news.
“It is a new destination. Anything that moves the East West rail ahead and makes that more likely to happen sooner has to be good.”
It comes as Chiltern Railways moves to open a link from Oxford to Bicester, High Wycombe and London Marylebone by spring 2016.
The development would include a new station at Water Eaton near Kidlington and in Bicester and improvements to Islip station.
Mr East said: “Even for someone living in Islip, Oxford or Bicester, it means you can look to jobs, not just in High Wycombe, but to Milton Keynes and beyond.”
A county council report said the plan will be a “major step forward” in realising an ambition of four trains an hour from Didcot via Culham, Oxford, Water Eaton and Bicester.
It said the plan “reinforces Oxfordshire position at the heart of the national rail network” and would provide “a realistic alternative to the congested road network”.
But county Labour group leader Liz Brighouse questioned the spending at a time when the council is looking to save £60m from 2014 to 2018 on top of £127m needed from 2010 to 2014.
She said: “I have worries about all these these massive infrastructure projects, as to whether or not they are what we need going into the future.”
Labour city council leader Bob Price said the authority had yet to agree its contribution but said the scheme would help Oxford train station become a “successful transport and business hub”.
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