Track laying of the first connection stage of East West Rail (EWR) between Bicester and Bletchley is now 99% complete, after the new track construction (NTC) train completed its 58th and final shift, installing 942m of track using 1,449 sleepers.
With passenger services due to start between Bicester and Bletchley in 2025, this milestone brings the benefits of EWR even closer to local communities - enabling better access to jobs, education and healthcare, and making it easier to see family and friends and travel for leisure.
This phase of the project is being delivered by the East West Rail Alliance, made up of VolkerRail, Network Rail, Atkins and Laing O'Rourke,which was appointed by Network Rail to construct the Bicester to Bletchley section of new railway.
Once complete, there will be 66km of new track between Bletchley and Bicester.
The track itself has been laid by a state of the art “New Track Construction (NTC) train”, one of only two such machines in the whole country. The train uses an automated track laying system which is faster than using conventional track laying methods, and can lay up to 1km of new track a day. Use of the New Track Construction train has also helped to remove around 4,000 lorry journeys from local roads during the construction period.
EWR Alliance director, Mark Cuzner, said: “It is good to see the progress we have made with our track construction programme in the last 12 to 18 months. Our team has worked tirelessly with our supply chain partners and Network Rail to meticulously schedule all the engineering trains necessary to support the track construction.
“Witnessing the 58th and final NTC shift here today (Wednesday 13 December) is testament to the combined efforts of the entire team, and with 99% of the rail now laid, the project is in a healthy position to complete the final section of track installation in the New Year, to allow installation of the railway systems before testing of the new railway later in 2024.”
Installation of the signalling and telecoms equipment needed to operate the railway is also well underway, and once completed, will be followed by dynamic train testing before the railway reopens in 2025. Once open, this section of line will provide direct passenger services between Oxford, Bletchley and Milton Keynes for the first time in over 50 years.
The final section of track installation - welding, stressing and ‘tamping’ (track alignment) works - will be completed in the New Year.
East West Rail intends to create a new direct connection between Oxford and Cambridge. Serving communities across the area, it intends to bring faster journey times and lower transport costs as well as ease pressure on local roads.
East West Rail is planned to be delivered in three Connection Stages:
Network Rail was responsible for delivering the first part of East West Rail Connection Stage One, connecting Oxford with Bicester (completed in 2016), and is part of the East West Rail Alliance, appointed to deliver the second phase of Connection Stage 1, connecting Bicester to Bletchley and Milton Keynes. East West Railway Company (EWR Co) and Network Rail are acting as the Department for Transport’s joint sponsors.
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