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Train speed irrelevant to bats, rail inquiry hears
11:10am Thursday 31st May 2012 in Bicester
RESIDENTS fighting proposals for a fast Oxford to London Rail link suffered an early blow at the public inquiry into the £130m scheme.
A submission from Natural England confirmed their worst fears about the loss of a powerful ally. It said: “Many residents’ objections relate to trains running at 70mph. In relation to bats, however, Natural England no longer maintains a concern about the speed of the trains.”
The inquiry reopened on Tuesday at the Kassam Stadium, after early hearings were suspended due to concerns about the Evergreen 3 scheme’s impact on bats in Wolvercote tunnel.
At the original inquiry in 2010, Natural England said it had received insufficient information about safeguards for bats in the tunnel at Wolvercote roundabout, and an application for a European Protected Species Licence was likely to fail.
But it told the inspector this week a novel lighting system had been trialled and shown to deter bats from the tunnel when lights came on. This made the speed of trains irrelevant.
Earlier Chiltern Railways told the planning inspector an agreement with Natural England means a bat licence “can and will” be granted, lifting the key impediment to the new Oxford-Bicester-London Marylebone service.