THE next stage of the rail link between Oxford and Cambridge, combined with regeneration of the railway station, could put the city at the heart of the country's transport network.

Council transport bosses said East West Rail phase two, linking Bicester to Bletchley, would provide frequent services between Didcot, Oxford and Bicester - the county's 'knowledge spine'.

It is also hoped the link would take heavy goods vehicles off the A34 in favour of freight services, therefore reducing queues on the cities roads.

Oxfordshire County Council will next week respond to a consultation on the plans, which it believes will help also improve connectivity elsewhere.

Director of planning Sue Halliwell, in a report to cabinet, said there was there was 'significant potential' to extend westwards, linking Oxford to Swindon, Bristol and even to Heathrow Airport, although these would need the upgrading of the railway between Didcot and Oxford and the redevelopment of Oxford station.

County council leader, Ian Hudspeth, said: "The impact of East West Rail will be absolutely huge. It will make sure we have these radial routes across the country rather than services going into and out of London.

"It will link Oxford to Milton Keynes going north and to the south - and it will also take vital goods deliveries off the A34, reducing congestion."

Much of the cash will come from national funds but Oxfordshire County Council is also poised to release £11m towards it.

Senior council officials admitted they had been 'frustrated' that after more than 20 years of discussions phase two had still not begun, but said this scheme was of national importance.

Phase one - between Oxford and Bicester - was completed in December and the next phase, to be delivered by 2024, will see Bicester linked with Buckinghamshire, before the project moves east to Bedford and Cambridge.

Deputy leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, Mark Shaw, chairman of the East West Rail Consortium's Joint Delivery Board, said it would 'unlock the region's potential'.

He said: "East West Rail is about so much more than upgrading old bits of track to take on new passenger and freight services.

"It is an essential piece of infrastructure which will unlock the region’s huge economic potential and support planned housing growth - that’s why it has the support of the councils which sit along its route."

Oxfordshire's board member for transport, Yvonne Constance, said: "East West Rail is a once in a generation opportunity to secure a huge step in connectivity within Oxfordshire and across the whole Oxfordshire to Cambridgeshire area.

"It is a key part of the Government’s investment plan for the Oxford to Cambridge growth corridor, and the new infrastructure and rail services it provides would bring more frequent services in Oxfordshire directly connecting Bicester, Oxford and Didcot."

The consultation will run at the same time as a separate one on the planned regeneration of the railway station which are now on show on the concourse. Commuters will be able to quiz city council planners there this morning over plans for its £75m overhaul.

The plan includes a new track and platform, shops, offices and a hotel, and a 480-space car park to cater for the increases in passengers and journeys through the station.

City council leader Bob Price said these changes would 'maximise' the potential of the station and the city itself.

The public can comment on the station masterplan until August 25 by going to