shop cheap jerseys ‘Cowley branch line should be reopened to passengers’
RAIL passengers should be travelling on the revived Cowley Branch Line within two years, according to a government backed report which says failure to get the scheme in motion could set back the city’s economic growth.
A long awaited report released by the National Infrastructure Commission into growth around Oxford, calls for work to start quickly on the line, which would potentially link Oxford Business Park in Cowley and Oxford Science Park in Littlemore with Oxford Station and Oxford Parkway in Water Eaton.
It said billions of pounds should be ploughed into boosting innovation and development across the region, taking in an ‘arc’ from the city to Milton Keynes and Cambridge.
The report said Cowley and East Oxford were already developing quickly and had the potential to grow further but that growth was under threat if rapid work did not start soon.
The branch line has not been used by passenger services since 1963 after British Railways closed the Oxford to Princes Risborough line. But it has been included on Oxfordshire County Council’s Oxford Transport Strategy, which outlines local transit needs up to 2031.
Bob Price, the chairman of the Oxfordshire Growth Board and leader of Oxford City Council, said: “I think it’ll be challenging, but it’s one of those aspirations which has been much endorsed by Network Rail.
“It has all sorts of practical benefits which railway people get very excited by, and it would mean that people need fewer cars and buses.”
He said it was likely the route would be of a limited capacity if it were to open by 2019, but would increase as infrastructure was improved.
Dave Penney, managing director of Chiltern Railways, which operates trains between Oxford, Bicester and London Marylebone, said: “We welcome the proposals set out in the National Infrastructure Commission report.
“The timescales are ambitious, but we would be happy to work with the NIC, Network Rail and other relevant local stakeholders to support delivery of passenger services on the Cowley line.”
The NIC said housebuilding must be increased, insisting that under current projections, just 230,000 of the necessary homes would be delivered by 2050.
The report said suitable building land in Oxford was scarce, but said the Oxford Parkway station development showed it was possible to achieve “faster growth now”.
The report also recommended new fast, direct rail services be introduced from Bicester to Bletchley, in Milton Keynes, to enable further development and also improve connectivity between London and Aylesbury.
Another 1bn should also be set aside by the Government to deliver a better rail route between Bicester and Bedford,
It also called for more road building, insisting the contentious 3bn Oxford Cambridge expressway be agreed by 2025, and that building should be completed by 2030.
The NIC’s Professor Sadie Morgan said Oxford “attracts the brightest and best” but that its “enviable position is under threat” without urgent measures to boost growth.
She said: “Early action is essential, including through a new station at Cowley, plus timetable changes, to allow a service between Cowley and central Oxford by 2019.
“If we do this quickly, we can improve residents’ daily lives and make it an attractive place in which to work and study. Crucially, it can also help local young people to get on the property ladder and put down roots here, rather than feeling they have to move away.”
The NIC said if the plans were fully implemented, the 90bn which is pumped into the national economy by the Oxford Milton Keynes Cambridge arc could jump to 250bn.
“But this will only happen if local leaders and central government work together to achieve this and safeguard the arc’s future,” Prof Morgan added.
However, the reception was not altogether positive.
Oxford Green Party’s planning spokesman on Oxford City Council, Dick Wolff, said: “We’ve been here before. The reality in Oxford is that what our leaders have previously termed economic growth, has in fact led to greater income inequality, a broken housing market, and lethal air pollution.
“As well as providing jobs, we want to see development that genuinely reduces childhood poverty, reduces inequality and repairs the housing market.”
The NIC urges more cooperation between councils to think more about their building programmes but in Oxfordshire this has already been introduced. The Oxfordshire Growth Board, which includes the county’s five district councils and county council as voting members, has already agreed to work together on planning issues.
An advocate for academies and a graduate of Keble College, Oxford, he was also minister of state for education under Tony Blair from 2005 and 2008 and minister of state for transport from October 2008 until June 2009, when he was promoted to secretary of state. He later attended Christ Church College before teaching at Nuffield College. That was in charge of venues,
facilities and infrastructure of the 2012 London Olympic Games.