East West Rail Phase 2

We are delivering Connection Stage 1 of the East West Rail phase 2 project, also known as EWR - connecting Bicester and Bletchley.

East West Rail is a major railway programme aimed to deliver much needed transport connections for communities between Oxford and Cambridge. 

Working as part of the East West Rail Alliance with Network Rail, AtkinsRéalis and Laing O’Rourke, we are bringing back a section of railway between Bicester and Bletchley. 

Delivering a reliable service for passengers was our top priority, and the alliance worked with local government bodies to deliver the full Oxford-Milton Keynes connection from day one. 

Current status 

The project is in its final year of construction. In February 2024, the final section of track connecting Bicester and Bletchley was laid, meaning next year; for the first time in over 50 years, trains will run from Oxford to Milton Keynes and Bedford. 

The team is now completing the track consolidation programme to facilitate the 100mph line speed ready for passenger services. Other activities to close out the project include: 

  • Final testing of station information and surveillance systems at the two new stations.  
  • The reopening of all the public rights of way with 26 out of 27 handed back to the local authorities for public use. 
  • Handing back temporary land take to landowners with includes some of the ecological compensation sites built across the project to mitigate the loss of habitat giving the landowners the information to maintain those sites.  


Each alliance partner brought vital experience across each area of this turnkey project. For VolkerRail, that experience was track, and our teams led on the construction of the 66km line between Bicester and Bletchley

Other key achievements by VolkerRail included:

  • 70km new track & drainage
  • 5 new overbridges
  • 12 new footbridges
  • 5 bridges with new deck
  • 22 refurbished bridges
  • 130km new fencing

VolkerRail also helped to bring Network Rail’s long welded rail train out of retirement to install the large quantities of long welded rail needed to complete the projects’ complex track construction programme.

VolkerRail Specialist Businesses  

VolkerRail Specialist Businesses supported the alliance throughout, with piling, minor civils work, signalling, telecoms and rail plant. 

  • Our rail plant division installed 18 switches and crossings and a modular transformer unit at Newton Longville, utilising our Kirow crane. 
  • To allow a smooth travel for future passengers, our Beaver tampers tamped over 40 route miles of new track between Bicester and Bletchley. 
  • We maintained the ballast through brushing and profiling using our Colmar T10000FS and Komatsu PW160 MR3 Road Rail Vehicles
  • We also installed a sustainable combined signalling and telecoms cable route and walkway product throughout the 33km site.


East West Rail was the first major rail infrastructure project in the UK to commit to a 10% net biodiversity gain target across the whole project, prior to it becoming a formal requirement in February 2024.

By 2023, the success of the first 20 ecological compensation sites created to protect and reduce the impact of the project on important and protected species and habitats, were recognised. In total, these sites incorporate 45 ponds, badger setts, a bat house, more than 70 bat boxes and the planting of more than 150,000 plants and trees.

The Alliance also received the Green Apple Transport, Freight and Highways Environmental Improvement Sector Award for environmental best practise, following the success of its Green Champion campaign.


Safety is a top priority for the Alliance, and in 2024, the project received The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) Gold Medal Award for its dedication to the health, safety and wellbeing of its workforce over five consecutive years.

Transport and Work Act Order 

As part of the application for the Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO), consultation events with key stakeholders and the local community were held to ensure that statutory bodies, landowners, members of the project and other stakeholders had an opportunity to understand and comment on the scheme.  

In advance of works starting, the request of planning permission for land across the project footprint began as early as 2013, which further consents, permissions and licences in 2017 and 2018.  

A 12 week public inquiry then followed in February 2019, where the proposals for the direct rail link were presented, this resulted in the approval of the TWAO by the Secretary of State for Transport, which came into force on 25 February 2020, allowing EWR Alliance to start main construction works.  

VolkerWessels UK 

This project has benefited from the wider capabilities of VolkerWessels UK

  • VolkerFitzpatrick is building a brand new station and car park for the rural town of Winslow and is upgrading Bletchley Station with two new high level platforms .  
  • VolkerLaser played a critical role in the re-build of Bletchley Flyover. The flyover, completed in November 2021, was the first major achievement needed to build a direct rail service to connect communities between Oxford, Bedford and Cambridge. T
  • VolkerHighways provided traffic management for survey and diversion works as part of the design process, and carried out an extensive offline package of works across sites in Buckinghamshire.
  • VolkerSite Services provided sustainable site accommodation and VolkerGround Engineering also undertook piling works.

For more information, visit Network Rail’s website and East West Rail Company.