The future of the railway in Oxfordshire is being highlighted in a new study. Network Rail is hoping to increase capacity through Oxford and Didcot stations and build a new station at Wantage.
It's to meet an expected 70% increase in demand for services across Oxfordshire.
The Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Study (ORCS) is looking in detail at the county's predicted growth in jobs and housing over the next two decades and presents an industry vision for how the rail network can best support it.
Commissioned and funded jointly by the Department for Transport and the Oxfordshire Growth Board, the study has been produced by Network Rail, with oversight from the Growth Board, in collaboration with industry partners and the County and City Councils, to help develop an overarching strategy for rail development.
The study recommends a number of potential future improvements to support increasing interconnectivity across Oxfordshire. Subject to future funding and viable business cases, these include:
Increasing capacity through Oxford station
Reopening the Cowley branch line, plus additional services to Hanborough
Additional infrastructure to provide greater capacity in and around Didcot
A new station at Wantage/Grove
The study identifies parts of Oxfordshire's rail network where demand for train services is expected to increase in the medium (2028) and long-term (2033). It includes improving the city's connections with Birmingham, Reading and Bristol.
The study cites a predicted 70% increase in services across Oxfordshire, which was calculated prior to the emergence of the COVID pandemic.
While the impact of the pandemic on future passenger numbers and demand for services is still emerging, the study's recommendations are considered critical to supporting growth and connectivity across the county in general over the longer term.
Last month, the Department for Transport confirmed £69m of funding for the next stage of the Oxford Corridor Capacity Phase 2 project.
This latest investment will increase capacity and journey times on this key route, as well as further develop plans for a new platform and western entrance to inform a funding bid later this year.
The study's recommendations have now been drawn together to form a strategy known as 'Oxfordshire Connect', which will be used to decide future investment priorities and help seek future funding through the Government's Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) and third parties.