The original route
The original railway line opened in 1861, with passenger services running 1962 and freight services until 1970. Various studies have looked at bringing back the railway line. Most have, rightly, concluded that reinstating the line on its old alignment is not viable. Some of the key issues around the old alignment include:
- a route south of Eynsham would serve neither the 2,200 homes planned in the Salt Cross Garden Village, nor the 1,000 homes planned in West Eynsham. These two developments will collectively comprise the majority of Eynsham’s population by 2030.
- The recommended site of the Eynsham P&R facility with 850 car parking spaces takes traffic directly off the A40, as opposed to the former Eynsham station site which is now a large and very expensive to move Siemens facility, further from the A40 with a fraction of the car parking spaces.
- the B4449 and the industrial park at Old Station Way are both sited on the old track, so a new route south of Eynsham would need to loop further south, around the Oakfield industrial estate.
- the old route runs through beautiful open countryside, vs. one running as close to the A40 as possible.
- passes through the historic village of South Leigh, where houses have been built over the old track.
- just east of Witney, approximately a mile of the old route is currently either being, or will soon be, quarried for gravel. Post-extraction, the site will be turned into lakes and reedbeds.
2001 – Mott MacDonald report focused only on the old alignment.
2009 – the Association of Train Operating Companies’ report identified Witney as a town which had grown substantially since the Beeching closure and justified reopening the railway line. They indicated a possible Benefit to Cost Ratio of 1.8, a positive indication.
2015 – as per Oxfordshire County Council’s Local Transport Plan, the council committed to “retain the option of a rail line to Witney as a longer term aspiration in its A40 Strategy, and will pursue opportunities to realise the aspiration.”
Importantly, none of the reports seriously considered new route alternatives reflecting the greatly changed facts on the ground, such as the necessity to find new station sites at Eynsham, Witney and Carterton.