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What we think about rail

Train near Cassington Train near Cassington Photo: © Jane Tomlinson

We want to see a railway renaissance, with an expansion of the network, more passengers and freight. Expansion must be planned carefully to remain affordable, safeguard the countryside and tackle car dependence and rising carbon emissions.

More people than ever are travelling by train but the rail system is creaking under the strain. Fares are shooting up while the cost of driving goes down, creating a growing gap in affordability. And so we largely welcome the Government’s medium- to long-term transport policy; it looks like a real alternative to travel by car, coach and short-haul airlines is emerging.

There now seems to be a new commitment to the railways and a recognition of its value as a public service. Rail freight is profitable and increasing once more. Fare rises above inflation for long distance commuting could reduce development pressures outside London. This is great news for the countryside as the threat of building more and more roads is no longer inevitable.

What's happening in Oxfordshire

Electrification of the Great Western main line, including the branch to Oxford, is going ahead. The consultation on the proposed replacement of bridges has resulted in less disruption and the saving of a brick arch bridge at North Moreton.

Oxfordshire County Council’s strategy for railways proposes a new stations and connections for Wantage and Grove, and a study of reinstatement of a rail link to Witney, Carterton and Brize Norton, all of which is most welcome, especially by those who currently have no alternative but to use the impossibly overcrowded A40! But don't hold your breath, it's many years down the line.

Oxfordshire has been particularly favoured with improvements to existing main railway lines that with alternatives for through-travel and improvements to local services. Cotswold line local services are now more regular and reliable following the replacement of the dual track. And both Charlbury and Long Hanborough station car parks are being enlarged.

Private investment has transformed the Chiltern line with more frequent services, longer trains to London, new car parks and now expresses from Bicester and Banbury to the West Midlands. Work will start shortly to bring the Oxford to Bicester line up to modern standards opening up an entirely new Oxford to London Marylebone route, the so-called Evergreen 3 route. The Government has committed funds for the re-instatement of the Oxford to Bedford service (part of the former Oxford to Cambridge line). Development at Water Eaton Park and Ride in the Green Belt has been a cause for concern but if sensitively planned this service could help to relieve local roads.

This line will become a significant national freight route connecting south coast ports to the Midlands and the North. No upgrading of the A34 trunk road is planned and development of this rail corridor is an example of the potential for long distance rail freight.

More extensive electrification is planned to the line from London to Oxford and Cardiff. The newest plan carries this on through Oxford to Birmingham, via the new East-West line to Bedford and as far west as Swansea. A major redesign of Oxford station and the Thames valley branch lines will also be included. This is good news for Henley.

But we do not support the building of HS2 - high speed services will benefit only a few rushing through our county. Instead we will offer our support to help affected communities find ways to mitigate its impact should it come to pass. We favour local services which give rural communities a genuine chance to grow and keep traffic off the roads.

Our current concerns

For more on specific campaigns, including HS2 and Evergreen 3 see our Rail matters section and check out our news pages.

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