Taken as a whole, Carterton, Witney and Eynsham and the surrounding villages represent one of the largest populations in the country not connected to the rail network. The poor transport links in the district generate many negatives including reduced access to employment and education; deterring employers from locating locally; slow, stressful and unpredictable journeys; and increased pollution. We believe that a rail line would help West Oxfordshire and the county as a whole to prosper by providing a fast corridor along which people can rapidly and sustainably move, providing West Oxfordshire residents far greater access to job and education opportunities.
Given the layout of Oxford with single lane roads leading into the centre and a very congested ring road, it’s clear that the fastest way both into Oxford and around Oxford is by rail. See here for a Google Earth presentation outlining a potential route, connecting into the Cotswold Line at Yarnton. A restored rail line would cut journey times enormously, with trains running from Eynsham to Oxford in 9 minutes, Witney to Oxford in 16 minutes and Carterton to Oxford in 22 minutes. This would substantially reduce congestion on the A40 and take a material number of cars off the road. The rail line will also enable fast travel beyond Oxford, whether it is continuing on along the Cowley line (post conversion from freight to passenger traffic) to the business and science parks southeast of the city; or to other regional centres such as Didcot, Bicester, Bletchley; or to London, Birmingham or along the upcoming East-West Rail link to Cambridge.
Some people think that if we just stick with really bad infrastructure that we won’t get more housebuilding in the district, but that’s wrong. As per the District’s Local Plan (see p46), the District Council has committed to building 10,450 new homes in the district between 2021 and 2031. This is at the national and county government’s command, so we are getting the houses whether we like it or not. Being realistic, 2031 will not be the end of housebuilding in the district. Importantly, this is all happening irrespective of whether a train line is built or not. Therefore we have the choice, either to stick our heads in the sand and hope it will all go away, or we can decide to take control to the maximum extent possible and create infrastructure which is fast, sustainable and serves our needs as residents. The planned bus express lanes for four miles from a park & ride at Eynsham to Wolvercote roundabout will help, but they are unlikely to make more than a minimal difference to overall journey times given they make up a small fraction of the 17 miles by road from Oxford to Carterton and that the road congestion in Oxford and Witney will be unchanged.
Many of us talk about a climate emergency. Here is an opportunity to do something about it. Transport is the single biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in West Oxfordshire, with road transport comprising 98% of transport emissions in the District. We are advocating a clean energy solution, most likely battery powered. This is not pie in the sky, battery powered trains are in commercial production now. The advantages of battery power include zero pollutants, zero direct CO2 emissions, no overhead wires and very quiet running.
When making decisions we need to think not just about the next three, five or ten years, but what makes sense over the next twenty, fifty or one hundred years. We also need to go step by step. Witney Oxford Transport Group is submitting an application to the Department for Transport’s Restoring Your Railways Ideas Fund by March 5th for a £50,000 grant to fund a feasibility study. To date, we have received letters of support for this bid from Witney Town Council, Carterton Town Council, Eynsham Parish Council, the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Oxford University and Grosvenor, the developer of the Eynsham Garden Village. We’re thrilled and very grateful to have their support. However, most of all, we want to hear from everyone who lives in the district. The Witney Gazette and Witney Radio have kindly offered to run a survey this week and here is the link – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WitneyOxfordTransportGroup. The shortest version is just two questions, but if you can fill in all ten, even better. Either way, it’s very short and we beg you both to fill it in and please circulate it as widely as possible!