Today (Tuesday 4 February) the Secretary of State for Transport approved Network Rail’s Transport and Works Act Order application, granting permission for work to begin on the next phase of East West Rail.
The TWAO grants permission for track and signalling upgrades between Bicester, Bedford, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes, including reinstating a disused section of railway between Bletchley and Claydon Junction, north of Aylesbury Vale Parkway.
Mayor Dave Hodgson, Chair of England's Economic Heartland's Strategic Transport Forum – the Sub-national Transport Body for the region – said: "This is more welcome news which demonstrates the momentum which is now behind East West Rail, coming so soon after the announcement on the preferred route between Bedford and Cambridge.
"East West Rail will have a transformational impact on our economy and do so in a way that offers an attractive alternative to the car. And we know there's a huge appetite amongst our residents and businesses for the scheme – as demonstrated by the unprecedented success of the section between Oxford and Bicester since it opened in 2016.
"We welcome Government's continued commitment to realise the scheme's delivery as early as possible. We will continue to work with them to ensure the full strategic potential of East West Rail is realised, including in terms of its capability to carry freight, improving local connectivity to stations and maximising the opportunities it creates on the wider rail network."
Cllr Mark Shaw, Chairman of the East West Rail Consortium, an alliance of local authorities which produced the original business case for the scheme, said: "This has to go down as one of the most exciting weeks in the history of East West Rail, with approval to begin major construction of the western section coming just days after the preferred route between Bedford and Cambridge was announced.
"East West Rail will transform the way people travel within and across the region, supporting communities, boosting businesses, unlocking job opportunities, and getting people out of their cars. The Consortium and the local authorities along the line will continue to work with Network Rail and its partners to ensure the western section is now delivered as quickly and smoothly as possible."