The government has declared the section of the East West Rail Project between Bedford and Cambridge as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
This means that following comprehensive public consultation involving local authorities across the route, the East West Railway Company (EWR Co) can apply to the secretary of state for transport for a development consent order (DCO) to authorise the project.
The project also got a mention in the autumn spending review earlier this month, when the treasury report referenced its continued support for the development of major transport projects including “driving forward East West Rail links in the Oxford to Cambridge Arc.”
The news means communities between Oxford and Cambridge are on track to be linked by rail before the end of the next decade, with local business leaders confident the new connections will create opportunities for employment and business growth across the region. They will also provide transport for much needed new developments.
EWR Co was set up by the Department for Transport to pioneer a new business model that combines delivery of both rail infrastructure and passenger services for a new direct rail connection between Oxford and Cambridge.
Rob Brighouse, chairman at EWR Co, said: “I fully appreciate the importance of good connectivity to support local communities. So, achieving this status as an NSIP is important because it unlocks the ability for us to secure a Development Consent Order to authorise the project. It’s brilliant to get two affirmations for the project in one week with our mention in the government spending review also warmly welcomed.”
Richard Tunnicliffe, east of England regional director, CBI said: “Local business wants to see greater connectivity across the region, widening access to skills, and new opportunities for collaboration. Delivering East West rail is a positive step to help achieve this, and this welcome news confirms government commitment to the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and gives us all a much clearer view of the process ahead.”
Earlier this year, EWR Co consulted on five possible route options for the line between Bedford and Cambridge. A full report of the consultation is expected to be published later this year, alongside the preferred route.