Businesses and residents near East West Rail are set to benefit from world class 5G technology following a successful funding bid to government which was supported by England’s Economic Heartland and the East West Main Line Partnership.
A consortium led by Oxfordshire County Council, including Buckinghamshire, Central Bedfordshire, Peterborough and Cambridgeshire councils, won £3.8m from the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT) to establish a ‘5G Innovation Region’.
The consortium – England’s Connected Heartland – plans to initially invest in two major 5G projects – the East West Rail project between Bicester and Bletchley, and the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus.
The East West Rail 5G project will seek to demonstrate how enhanced digital connectivity for track operations and passengers can be met with a pilot 5G network. This will also provide trackside communities and businesses with improved connectivity, for example enabling agri-tech applications which improve productivity on nearby farms.
The installation of 5G directly builds upon work by EEH, East West Main Line Partnership and Buckinghamshire LEP to secure funding for fibre cabling along the track while the Bicester to Bletchley section was being built.
EEH and East West Main Line Partnership both provided formal letters of support for the England’s Connected Heartland’s submission to government.
Cllr Steven Broadbent, Chair of East West Main Line Partnership, said: “The benefits that East West Rail offers to the region are significantly further improved by ensuring its implementation as a digitally enabled corridor. I’m delighted that the fibre cabling which we all worked so hard to secure provides the foundations for superb 5G connectivity for passengers and the rural communities and businesses which are based near the line. This project will demonstrate how major transport schemes can – and indeed must – also transform digital connectivity.”
Naomi Green, managing director of England’s Economic Heartland, said: “Excellent digital connectivity is a minimum requirement in a world leading economy. As a result of today’s announcement, communities and businesses near to the route of East West Rail as well as passengers on the route itself will enjoy word-class digital connectivity. We are delighted to support the consortium and will continue to work with them to ensure both physical and digital infrastructure unlocks opportunities for our residents, businesses and the UK economy.”
The other initial project is to create a private 5G network that covers the entire Harwell campus. Oxfordshire County Council has already held discussions with several organisations on site including the European Space Agency (ESA), UK Space Agency, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), who are supportive of such a network.
Councillor Liz Leffman, speaking in her capacity as Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We’re committed to working with other local authorities and partners to maximise our chances of securing investment in digital connectivity and telecoms innovation. Today’s announcement is testament to the benefits of such an approach, allowing us to demonstrate the benefits of 5G making Oxfordshire and surrounding counties a heartland for sustainable economic growth.”