THE first rail tracks have been laid in a £290m project to link Oxford and London Marylebone.

Track has been put down at the London Road crossing in Bicester as part of the Chiltern Railways project, which will provide a second service to the capital from Oxford, from next spring.

Chiltern Railways will also rebuild Bicester and Islip stations and build a new station at Water Eaton, near Kidlington, called Oxford Parkway.

The project paves the way for an East-West rail link from Reading to Milton Keynes and Bedford, via Oxford and Bicester Town.

Chiltern Railways managing director Rob Brighouse said: “This is the first of our new track and, although only 20 metres, it’s the beginning of our new rail link leading to London Marylebone.

“This project will deliver significant economic benefits for those living and working along the route and transform travel for people in Oxfordshire.”

Network Rail route managing director Dyan Crowther said: “The scheme will deliver significant economic, social and environmental benefits to Oxfordshire.”