Government announces East West Rail route update

May 26th 2023

The government has today announced its route update for East West Rail between Bletchley and Cambridge as part of an ambitious life sciences package to support economic growth across the UK. East West Rail is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our region and the UK – EEH will work to ensure it has a positive and lasting legacy for the places it serves.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “The cities of Oxford and Cambridge are renowned across the globe for their academic excellence - East West Rail will be vital in allowing them to thrive for generations to come and help to grow the economy.

“With the potential to unlock £103 billion of growth through new homes, businesses and job opportunities, this crucial line will also serve as a catalyst for development in one of Europe’s most vibrant local economies while making travel quicker, cheaper and easier across the region.”

Cllr Liz Leffman, vice-chair of England’s Economic Heartland, said: “Today’s announcement helps bring clarity to residents, businesses and local authorities along the route of East West Rail. With EEH’s support, our local authority partners can now work with their communities to understand the detail of the plans.

“East West Rail is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we travel across the region and indeed the country – providing an attractive and sustainable alternative to the car which is crucial to achieving our net zero ambitions, while supporting economic growth and jobs creation for the benefit of the UK.

“A priority for EEH is ensuring East West Rail creates a positive and lasting legacy for the places it serves. This means continuing to press for the full electrification of East West Rail to ensure it maximises opportunities to decarbonise our transport system. We must ensure it increases the quality and sustainability of our places by acting as a catalyst for better bus and active travel journeys. That it supports the sustainable growth of our globally renowned science and technology sectors. And we must ensure East West Rail unlocks new jobs and leisure destinations for our residents and greater access to skilled labour and suitable premises for our businesses: spreading economic opportunities beyond the cities of Oxford and Cambridge.”

Cllr Steven Broadbent, chair of the East West Main Line Partnership, said: “The East West Main Line Partnership has been campaigning for East West Rail for nearly 30 years – and so today’s announcement is another welcome step towards making the scheme a reality.

“Our local authority members will now rightly be looking to understand the implications of the plans so they can represent the views of their residents and businesses accordingly. However, while there may understandably be a range of views on the specifics of the scheme published today, it remains the case that East West Rail will transform our region, unlocking new opportunities for people and businesses to flourish. Indeed, last year we held discussions with businesses in the region and their message was clear: East West Rail cannot be built soon enough. It will provide access to labour, boost productivity and collaboration and support the ambition for Britain to become a science and technology superpower.

“It is crucial that during the detailed planning for the construction of the next phases of East West Rail, the lessons learnt from the construction of the Bicester to Bletchley section such as the impact on local roads and timely engagement with residents are acted upon so that disruption to local communities is minimised. This has been a key area of interest for Partnership Board members and will continue to be so going forwards.

"It’s also important to recognise that East West Rail’s potential goes far beyond the route outlined in today’s announcement. The East West Main Line Partnership will continue to make the strongest case for the connection to Aylesbury – clarity is required as soon as possible on this essential link, which was an integral element of the original proposals. We will continue to highlight the potential of an East West Main Line stretching from Ipswich and Norwich through to Swindon, Bristol and South Wales, alongside the imperative for seamless interchange to ensure places within a short rail journey of an East West station can maximise opportunities from it.”