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Aylesbury to Milton Keynes rail link approved

Railway lineThe Treasury have approved plans for a new train line linking Aylesbury to Milton Keynes, via a station in Winslow.

As part of a £250m East-West Rail project, the spur line to Aylesbury will link Oxford and Bedford by reinstating a disused rail line.

It is completely separate to the controversial £32 billion HS2 high speed rail line, which will link London and the West Midlands and not stop in Aylesbury Vale.

East-West Rail will open in 2017, create an estimated 12,000 jobs and reduce journey times from Aylesbury to Milton Keynes down to 35 minutes.

Chris Wright, the secretary of the Bucks and Oxon Rail Action Committee, who has campaigned for East-West Rail for 25 years, said: “It will put Aylesbury on the map.

“At the moment if you want to go to Manchester you have to travel down to London first. But now you will be able to go to Milton Keynes and then up north.”

The plans were approved today under the 2005 Railway Act, which requires The Government to update its rail strategy every five years.

Mr Wright believes the new rail line will help ease traffic on the roads and prove popular amongst commuters.

He said: “In Aylesbury rail travel will offer increased advantages as the traffic congestion gets worse.

“The railway will take people straight into town without getting stuck in traffic jams.”

Although the spur line from Winslow down to Aylesbury will not be electrified, other parts of the line will be.

This means trains between Oxford and Bletchley, and then onto Bedford, could run at 90mph.

By electrifying the line the trains are more environmentally friendly than diesel, they require less maintenance, accelerate quicker, cause less damage and cost less to operate.

“They keep saying it is like the Victorian times but it’s not often you get a new railway line,” said Mr Wright.

“The track is all there, you are not going to be digging up the countryside. All the bridges are there, although they will need strengthening and checking.

“The Milton Keynes to Oxford line closed in 1967, just as the new city was approved. At the time The Bucks Herald said it was silly to close when you’re expanding Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.

“At the time it was losing £100,000 a year, but the unions came up with a range of solutions to improve the service.”

In Winslow, trains heading in both directions will stop every 30 minutes.

There will be a brand new station built, located just outside the town at the junction with Great Horwood Road – which will become a roundabout with one of the exits leading directly to the station’s car park.

County councillor David Rowlands, who has campaigned for a East-West Rail stop in Winslow for 20 years, said: “I’m absolutely delighted.”

He believes that once opened the new rail line will reduce traffic levels on the A413, which he descibes as ‘the most dangerous road in Bucks’.

Today’s Government announcement was part of a £9.4 billion upgrade to the railways across England and Wales.

A Department For Transport spokesman stressed that ‘The Government continues to work on HS2 to deliver rail capacity for the British economy in the decades to come’.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “From Crossrail, high speed rail and now the billions of pounds of investment we are announcing today, this Government is committed to taking the long term decisions to deliver growth and jobs.

“In what is the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era this investment will mean faster journeys, more seats, better access to stations, greater freight links and a truly world class rail network.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “This is the biggest expansion in railways in over 150 years, with more than £9 billion of investment across the country.

“Whilst we inherited a deficit greater than any in our nation’s peacetime history, we knew that we had to give the country the boost it needs, to build great railways and make journeys better for the millions of hard working people who use the train every day.

“The ‘electric spine’ will make a significant difference for passengers linking London, the Midlands and Yorkshire in a much more efficient rail line, connecting the south and north more effectively than ever before.

“As someone who cares deeply about the environment, the opportunity to dramatically expand rail, a greener form of transport than aviation or road is very exciting indeed. This investment will help people to choose trains over cars, reduce carbon emissions and provide a rail system that is faster, more reliable and greener.”

Chancellor George Osborne said: “I am pleased that the Northern Hub will be funded in full as part of the Government’s plans, which is a significant boost for the major towns and cities of the north, helping to rebalance the UK economy and enabling growth and regeneration throughout the regions.

“This Government is making more funds available to invest in rail projects than at any time since the Victorian era, and shows that the Government is committed to delivering on its promises to support investment in public infrastructure that will support economic growth.”

Transport secretary Justine Greening said: “Just as we are dealing with the budget deficit, so we are also determined to deal with the massive infrastructure deficit we inherited.

“Rail is just one part of an unprecedented programme of transport investment this Government has put in place to drive growth and job creation in the UK economy.

“We are building HS2, investing £1bn in strategic road schemes and supporting 56 local road schemes, as well as supporting light rail and bus projects.”