We are currently working to establish a direct rail link between Oxford and London Marylebone, the first new rail route between London and a major city for 100 years. The Evergreen 3 project which will deliver this is currently awaiting final Transport and Works Act approval following confirmation from the Secretary of State in January 2012 that she was minded to make the Order. This followed a public inquiry held in Oxford between November 2010 and January 2011 after which the Inspector’s report found there to be a compelling case for the scheme in the public interest.
In her letter of January 2012 the Secretary of State, in accordance with the Transport and Works Act Inquiry Procedure Rules, gave those who presented evidence at the public inquiry, the opportunity to make further written representations or to ask for the inquiry to be re-opened.
On 6th March 2012 we were advised by the Department for Transport that the Secretary of State is re-opening the inquiry to further consider four specific matters. These relate only to the mitigation measures for bats living in Wolvercot tunnel and to the form of three of the planning conditions proposed by the Secretary of State. The re-opened inquiry will not consider evidence on any other matters.
We have already committed to a range of mitigation measures including:
• the development of a system where the approach of a train at night would trigger lights in Wolvercot tunnel which would deter bats from the path of the train. Trials in autumn 2011 showed that this system would be successful. A monitoring programme has been agreed and Natural England is satisfied that a Protected Species licence should be issued if the Order is made.
• the provision of noise barriers and noise insulation measures where required along the line.
• the relocation of great crested newts and badgers to keep them safe from the works and the operation of the line.
• the avoidance of Roman remains and the contribution of funds to support the restoration of the historic swing bridge near the old Rewley Road station.
• a commitment to improve rail, pedestrian and road safety by replacing most level crossings.
Rob Brighouse, Managing Director of Chiltern Railways said: “Our proposed link between Oxford and London will bring huge benefits to Oxford and Bicester, and the planned parkway station in north Oxford at Water Eaton will allow passengers to avoid congestion in the city centre. Whilst it is disappointing that the inquiry has been reopened, we welcome the opportunity to demonstrate further, in public, the lengths we have gone to deal with the issues raised and to protect the local environment. We remain committed and confident about the project and we look forward to receiving the final permission from the Secretary of State in the near future.”
Once the Transport and Works Act has been approved we will re-evaluate the project schedule before beginning construction with the aim of opening the line in 2014.