East West Rail Link is a planned railway route linking Didcot, Oxford, Bicester, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich in England using part of the former Varsity Line. The western section from Oxford to Bedford was approved by the Government in November 2011, although most media attention is focussed on passenger services, the route is expected to be just as important for freight. As of December 2016, the segment from Oxford via Bicester Village to the junction with the Chiltern Main Line is operational, Ipswich Council and its neighbours were particularly concerned about poor services within East Anglia and the links to London. Some success was achieved east of Cambridge, at least partly through the efforts of the group, in April 2006, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister reported itself to be in favour of the principle of re-opening the link between Bedford and Oxford. In May 2006 the Department of Transport announced specific plans for Bletchley railway station, the document stated that it is likely that Bletchley area renewals and network simplification will take place by 2010, to include a high-level platform for Bedford trains. The network will be suitable for the addition of any East-West link to and from Oxford and for the operation of through links from either Oxford or Bedford to. In March 2007, a study declared at p.38,5, capital cost for the base case is between £100m – £135m. The base case and the Aylesbury options should be considered in the next phase of work. In April 2008, the Department for Transport responded to an e-petition for support on East West Rail by reiterating that they would encourage private funding, the western section will link Oxford and Bedford via Bletchley, with connections to the West Coast Main Line and the Midland Main Line. It will use the Oxford to Bicester Line, a section of the Varsity Line from Bicester to Bletchley. The existing Cherwell Valley Line will form a link to the Great Western Main Line at Didcot Parkway railway station, passenger services to Milton Keynes Central and Aylesbury were also planned. If construction had started in 2009 as they hoped, the upgraded / re-opened line could have been in service by 2012. In November 2008 the Milton Keynes Partnership, Chiltern Railways and the consortium agreed to take their proposals forward together. Chiltern Railways would take the lead on the upgrading of the Oxford-Bicester section with its Project Evergreen 3, in December 2008 the commissioning of a further report, to take the project forward to GRIP Stage 4, was announced. Section 3 also states there is some uncertainty over various parties requirements for the existing Bletchley-Bedford railway. Work to clear vegetation from the redundant section of line for the infrastructure assessment started in January 2009, the February 2008 report identified two options defined from different perspectives, the Regional Rail option and the Local Rail option. As part of existing upgrades, a new bay platform has been provided at Milton Keynes Central, the infrastructure between Oxford and Bletchley required by both options is essentially the same. The spur from Calvert to Aylesbury is only included in the Local option, the line from north of Wolvercote Tunnel through Bicester to Bletchley would be enabled for 100 mph double-track running
Western section of route connecting Bedford, Oxford, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes
Vegetation clearance works, 3 miles west of Bletchley, March 2014.
Central section of route, from Bedford to Cambridge. As of July 2015, Network Rail has discarded the southern option.