Setting the scene
There has been a great deal of discussion on transport along the A40 corridor since we were formed in 2013. We welcome the ongoing improvements to Hanborough Station, including better Park & Ride and more bus links from the A40 and the west. These will enable it to continue providing much needed short term relief, particularly for those living east of Witney. The success of Hanborough station demonstrates the potential for further rail connections in the area and an appetite for rail services.
We are less than enthusiastic however on recent proposals to dual the A40 with no provisions for alternative transport modes. Countless study proves that commuter hours could be saved by providing sustainable and more reliable alternatives to road transport, like a rail option. There is a simple reason why commuters favour – where available – rail vs cars or other road transport – with few exceptions railways run to a reliable timetable. You can jump on a train at a set hour and know that with a 90+% probability you will get to your destination at a specific time, day in, day out. This isn’t the case with roads, even with the best bus system around. There are simply too many pinch-points along a route (traffic lights, junctions, roundabouts etc.). You could, of course, build a fully segregated bus network, but its costs would be prohibitive.
We need to stop the narrow-minded approach to this problem in our County and get everyone focussed on thinking long term instead. WOT supports unconditionally the response of Sustainable Witney to the A40 Corridor Consultation.
Long term vs Short term strategy
We put together an initial proposal with emphasis on the long term development of our District, offering an alternative link between the Oxford and the Witney area (including Carterton and surroundings).
We are mindful that some funding has been earmarked by the Local Enterprise Partnership to alleviate the situation. This is insufficient to complete a large scale project, but if these funds were used wisely they could lay the foundations for future positive developments like those highlighted below.
Our proposed phased approach below is simply an indication of a possible route. For the purpose of this proposal, we have taken the viewpoint of demonstrating the use of as much as possible of the old track. However, especially around Eynsham, Witney and Carterton, we are fully aware there are obvious challenges and other alternative routes may be more appropriate.
A final route decision rests on careful evaluations and studies which are beyond the scope of this initial proposal. For now, we just wanted to highlight what we believe are the essential milestones in response to the diagrammatic (and much less detailed) perspective that the LPT4 recently issued by the County Council has provided.
A phased approach
Plan long term, act short term, maximising the allocated resources.
- Avoid a sticky plaster approach
- Joined up thinking with the development of a new link (e.g. all the way to Cowley) resolving some of the congestion close to the Wolvercote roundabout and encouraging a switch over to other transport modes
- Proactive, pragmatic and doable approach, involving a multitude of partners
- Creating Park & Ride spaces outside Oxford is in keeping with solutions being looked at by OCC
- No immediate large investment required, but a series of small steps
- Truly intermodal interchanges providing opportunities to use local buses, bicycles or car to optimise a journey to/from Oxford
Phase 1 – A Yarnton interchange
We propose as a first step the creation of a Park & Ride located in close proximity to Yarnton Junction, on the Cotswold line, accessed using the existing haul routes from the A40 near Cassington. This proposal would entail reopening the station and providing a regular service to central Oxford with a possible extension to Cowley (something which is already being looked at by the local Councils as well as Chiltern Railways.)
The approach to the Park & Ride, in part utilising the old railway track, should in future accommodate a new track to extend the line (regardless of the chosen model at this stage) westward towards Eynsham, where another possible Park & Ride could be located (see Google Map below).
Phase 2 – Yarnton to Eynsham
Phase 2 would take the line from the Yarnton Park & Ride all the way to the next modal interchange at Eynsham located within the planned Park & Ride. We resisted the temptation of going along with the suggestion of proposing the northern location for a station/park & ride as we felt that our proposal would give greater long term benefits. The track would for the most part run on the old trackbed.
Phase 3 – Eynsham to Witney
This phase would take the line, utilising as much as possible the old trackbed, close to Witney. Unfortunately, there is no way a line could reach the town centre as the old station yard was demolished long ago and it would now be inordinately expensive to rebuild. So we are proposing the continuation of the line on a new track to another station/park&ride locate on the western side of the town, in close proximity to the new housing estate, thus providing an opportunity for people to use a variety of transport means to reach Oxford and beyond.
Phase 4 – Witney to Carterton
Several options are possible to complete this phase, some would entail using parts of the old route towards Brize, while another option (the one highlighted in the map) is to continue with a brand new line, but closer to Carterton (the old line ended where the runaway starts now). It’s impossible at this stage, without an accurate engineering plan, to suggest a definitive route, but we wish to highlight that in order to provide a true long term solution a rail link proposal should address the needs of the local population in and around Carterton.
The video below was prepared as an introduction to our activities.
Proposed route map
Please click on the map below, the thin red line shows the old rail track. Where this line isn’t showing this is because it has been incorporated in the above proposal.