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It's full steam ahead for £70m revamp of Oxford rail station
THE £70m transformation of Oxford railway station will now go ahead after Government officials finally approved the plan.
The scheme, which has been in the pipeline for years in an effort to free up the bottlenecked route, has now been given permission by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).
It will see the Botley Road bridge replaced and an extra platform built to accommodate more services using the new link to London Marylebone and Milton Keynes via Bicester.
The £500m East West Rail project, which will connect Reading to Bedford via Oxford, has also been approved by the ORR as part of the same list of projects the regulator said Network Rail must deliver in the next five years.
Now officials are saying the station – which will be rebuilt by 2019 and trigger disruption for those working and living nearby – will put the city at the centre of the country’s rail network.
And they said it would help bring a massive injection of cash into the region’s economy.
City councillor Susanna Pressel, in whose ward the station is, said: “The station is not good enough for a beautiful city like Oxford, so to have a well-designed one to welcome people here will be great.
“We have to look carefully at what Network Rail proposes. The impact of the construction work will be great for people who live very close to the station, and there are a lot of people who do.
“But in the long-term it will be a great asset for Oxford.”
Network Rail is already working on a masterplan, expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Rail groups last night welcomed the developments.
Hugh Jaeger, of the Thames Valley branch of the campaign group Rail Future, said: “We are delighted that both these schemes have been included in the ORR’s report.
“We are convinced they are both good investments which will ensure a good return to the city of Oxford and the entire Oxfordshire region.
“We are keeping an eye on what the plan will be for Oxford station because there is no room for half measures and with the East West rail link we have got to keep looking east to link it with Cambridge and Felixstowe.”
Network Rail submitted its plans for spending on national infrastructure between 2014 and 2019 to the ORR in January this year.
The ORR has now approved the funding for the schemes, which means they can go ahead – although Network Rail will technically have until February next year to decide whether to accept the ORR’s proposals.
James Davis, a spokesman for First Great Western which runs Oxford Station, said: “It is great to see Oxford included in the ORR’s outlook for the next five years and we look forward to working with Network Rail and the local authority to realise these plans.”
Network Rail spokesman Dayle Sellars said the company could not comment on individual schemes before February.
But David Higgins, Network Rail chief executive, said: “The next five years for the railway will prove to be a critical challenge.”
Rodney Rose, the deputy leader of transport authority Oxfordshire County Council, said the East West link would now go ahead.
“This is fantastic,” he said. “There is an economic spine through the centre of Oxfordshire and this will stengthen that up.”
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