You can be forgiven for thinking that we went underground over the last few months and clearly, our activities were also greatly affected by the pandemic. However, despite all the restrictions, our Chair, Charlie Maynard, continued to lobby all our local politicians relentlessly, and we finally see the fruits of our labour.
At a meeting on January 18th, Oxfordshire County Council (“OCC”) Cabinet approved funding for a feasibility study of the Oxford-Eynsham-Witney-Carterton railway line. We are immensely pleased to report that the funds were finally sanctioned by the Council’s Budget Meeting on February 8th. OCC will now fund and lead this project, conducted by an appointed consulting firm specialising in this sector.
Why is a feasibility study important?
The Department for Transport’s standard Strategic Outline Business Case approach considers the Business, Strategic, Economic, Financial and Management merits of each rail project. Without this information, DfT and the other stakeholders would not be able to reach an appropriate decision. The study would be conducted by an independent professional rail consultant and would typically be completed in three months. With that work in hand, everyone will be in a much better position to properly assess the project, the economic, social and environmental benefits it would bring, and gain a much more detailed view of the estimated costs and timeline.
WOT worked tirelessly to get to this point, funding two studies in 2021. One commissioned SLC Rail to consider route options around Eynsham, taking into account the A40 expansion programme and two significant planned developments to the north and west of Eynsham. The second study was commissioned by WOT with E-Rail to explore how Land Value Capture funding could be applied to this project, along similar lines to what E-Rail achieved on the Northumberland Line. These studies were shared with OCC personnel and helped provide them with essential background information to consider funding the Feasibility Study in question. All the analyses were funded thanks to some generous personal donations to WOT. Our reserves are generally in the hundreds rather than thousand pounds, and we are operating with a minimal number of volunteers.
Where do we go from here?
During our consultations, we were given added determination by the extreme local popularity of our proposal. A survey indicated that 97% of respondents supported completing a feasibility study. Obviously, so many residents feel that a rail link between Carterton and Oxford would help relieve the dreadful congestion on the A40, reducing pollution, including CO2 emissions and opening up many other opportunities.
The feasibility study is now a big step ahead as it will provide hard evidence to all parties, to be used to determine the way forward.
Eventually, a rail link from Witney to Oxford could take just 16 minutes. A modern and forward-looking proposal like ours would see the creation of multimodal hubs, integrating effectively with other transport modes like bicycles, local buses and more. WOT’s vision is to deliver a fast, sustainable and reliable transport solution to West Oxfordshire, which helps the District economically, socially and environmentally.
Would you share this vision with us?