Oxford City Council has taken a significant step forward in its plans to reopen the Cowley Branch Line to passengers, commissioning a comprehensive Infrastructure Place Study. The study aims to assess the need for additional infrastructure placements to ensure the seamless integration of the proposed train line into the existing community.
The council has enlisted the expertise of SLC Rail to lead this critical assessment, marking a pivotal phase in the larger £4.5 million project aimed at reopening the Cowley Branch Line for passenger services. The venture enjoys support from key stakeholders, including Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, and major local landowners.
Currently dedicated to freight services serving BMW’s Cowley manufacturing plant, the rail track is slated for an upgrade to facilitate reinstated passenger rail services. The ambitious plans include the development of two new stations, “Oxford Littlemore” near the Oxford Science Park and “Oxford Cowley” near ARC Oxford.
Collaboration for a Comprehensive Solution:
In addition to its central role in the Infrastructure Place Study, SLC Rail will collaborate closely with Network Rail, responsible for devising the engineering design for the rail infrastructure and core station solutions. This collaboration is crucial in creating compelling funding proposals to present to the Government and potential funders in 2024.
Sam Uren, director of SLC Rail, expressed enthusiasm for the project, stating, “This is the type of exciting project we relish being involved in, and we are eager to contribute to its progression so that the new stations are thoughtfully integrated and fully accessible to maximise the positive impact on the communities within southeast Oxford.”
Tom Holbrook, director of 5th Studio, highlighted the broader implications of the Infrastructure Place Study, stating, “The study for the Cowley Branch Line will build on our thinking for the National Infrastructure Commission on good growth in the Oxford to Cambridge Arc. It joins a suite of projects at different scales in the practice that aim for better-integrated rail infrastructure and urban planning.”
Councillor Louise Upton’s Perspective:
Councillor Louise Upton, the cabinet member for planning, expressed her delight at reaching this crucial stage in the proposals for reopening the Cowley Branch Line to passengers. She highlighted the potential impact of a passenger service on this line, reducing travel time from Blackbird Leys to the city centre to just over 10 minutes.
“This would significantly enhance the city’s public transport options, increasing overall capacity locally, reducing congestion on our roads, and contributing to a more robust rail network regionally,” she commented.
While Network Rail is actively engaged in designing the proposed stations, the new commission will specifically focus on bridges and paths. This targeted approach ensures that the new stations are not only accessible to surrounding residential and commercial areas but also establish new links across the existing line.
Future Developments and Closing Remarks:
As the Infrastructure Place Study unfolds, the collaboration between SLC Rail and Network Rail is expected to yield comprehensive insights into the infrastructure requirements necessary for the successful integration of the Cowley Branch Line into the community. The prospect of reopening the line for passenger services, with the development of two new stations, stands as a significant advancement in enhancing public transport options in southeast Oxford.
The commitment from various stakeholders, including local councils and major landowners, underscores the importance of this project in regional transportation development. The study’s findings will play a crucial role in shaping the project’s future, as it moves towards securing funding and navigating the intricate planning and design phases.
In conclusion, the commissioning of the Infrastructure Place Study signals a strategic and meticulous approach to the proposed Cowley Branch Line project. The collaborative efforts of SLC Rail and Network Rail, combined with the support of local authorities, mark a promising trajectory towards a more integrated and accessible rail network in Oxfordshire. As developments unfold, the city and its residents eagerly await the positive outcomes that the reopening of the Cowley Branch Line could bring to the region’s transportation landscape.