Two formerly disused platforms at Charlbury and Ascott-under-Wychwood stations re-open to passengers for the first time in 40 years today. These platforms - buried and removed after spending cuts in the early 1970s – will cater to trains running on the extra 4.5 miles of new track between Charlbury and Ascott-under-Wychwood.
This also marks the end of an intensive nine-day improvement programme and the completion of the first stage of the North Cotswold redoubling scheme.
The £70m scheme, spearheaded by Network Rail with support from First Great Western and Cotswold’s Line Promotion Group, will enhance capacity and performance of rail services between Worcester and Oxford with an extra 21 miles of track.
Mike Gallop, principal programme sponsor for Network Rail said: “For many years, the North Cotswold line has been suffering from a frustrating bottleneck because of the single track. This will soon become a thing of the past as we move a step closer to completing the redoubling scheme with the launch of the first phase today. We will continue to work hard over the next two months to complete the scheme, bringing direct benefits to thousands of passengers from Oxford to Worcester.”
First Great Western Managing Director Mark Hopwood said “In the past ten years we have seen marked growth in the area First Great Western serves. The combination of improved reliability, better connectivity, and the competitiveness of rail against other modes of transport is increasingly attracting customers to use the railway. This redoubling scheme will allow us to deliver extra capacity, and improved reliability on North Cotswold rail services, which is good news for our customers.”
As part of the first stage of improvement work, an extra track is installed to help remove congestion and increase capacity on an otherwise single line between Charlbury and Ascott-under-Wychwood.
In addition, passengers at Charlbury and Ascott-under-Wychwood will also benefit from a bigger, brighter and accessible stations with improved facilities, including new platforms with step-free access, new lighting and real-time digital passenger information systems.
The signalling equipment in the area, including the system deployed at the Ascott-under-Wychwood signal box, is also upgraded to modern standards and will help to improve the reliability of rail services.
Around 1700 engineers were mobilised to work round the clock in the nine days to deliver this programme of work. Work will now focus on the final stage of the scheme to commission the remaining 15.5 miles of track between Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh during August.