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Projects to restore axed rail routes get £794m boost

The Railway Hub

Two projects to restore rail routes closed more than 50 years ago have been awarded £794 million of new funding.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said £760 million will support the next phase of East West Rail to reinstate services between Bicester, Oxfordshire and Bletchley, Buckinghamshire for the first time since 1968.

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A scheme to reopen the Northumberland Line between Newcastle and Ashington – which closed to passengers in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts – will be given £34 million to boost its development.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is also urging local authorities, MPs and community groups to submit bids for a share of the third and final round of the DfT’s Ideas Fund to support plans for new routes and reinstatements.

He said: “Restoring railways helps put communities back on the map and this investment forms part of our nationwide effort to build back vital connections and unlock access to jobs, education and housing.

“Returning these routes to their former glory, and progressing work to reopen even more lines and stations, shows our commitment to levelling up journeys across the country as we build back better from the pandemic.”

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East West Rail will boost connectivity between Oxford and Cambridge, and is expected to stimulate economic growth and serve new housing developments.

The section between Bicester and Bletchley will include the construction of new stations at Winslow and Bletchley, as well as enhancements to existing stations on the route.

By 2025, two trains per hour will run between Oxford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley.

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Simon Blanchflower, chief executive at East West Railway Company, which is overseeing the project, said: “We are delighted that the Government has shown a big commitment to East West Rail and the Oxford-Cambridge Arc with today’s investment decision.

“This funding will enable us to get on with the construction work that will connect communities who live on the East West Rail link.”

The investment in the Northumberland Line will fund preparatory work including land acquisition and detailed designs.

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Plans include new stations at Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park, as well as track upgrades and modifications around level crossings.

Northumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson said: “This is absolutely fantastic news and means we can now finalise our plans to deliver this transformational project for both Northumberland and the wider region.

“The Northumberland Line will bring a huge boost to the area in terms of economic growth, housing, employment and education opportunities, as well as providing a fast and efficient new transport link between the south-east of the county and Tyneside.”

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Sam Hewitt

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