Anneliese Dodds, MP for Oxford East, was joined by business leaders and local representatives on the third Cowley Branch Line walk to highlight the huge difference reopening the branch line to passengers could make for local residents. The track is currently only open to freight, and proposed plans to open it to passengers would include two new stations situated near the retail park in Cowley and ARC Oxford off Ambassador Avenue (serving the people of Cowley and Blackbird Leys) and at the Science Park in Littlemore (near Minchery Farm, adjacent to Priory Road).
Anneliese was joined by representatives from BMW, ARC Oxford (formerly Oxford Business Park), and Great Western Railway, as well as the City Council Cabinet Member for a Zero Carbon Oxford Imogen Thomas, County Council Cabinet member for Travel and Development Strategy, Duncan Enright, and local Councillor for Littlemore Nadine Bely-Summers.
On the route Anneliese met with Network Rail to get an update on the preferred option that is currently being developed for the re-introduction of passenger services on the branch line, including visualisations of the proposed two new stations, level crossing closures and upgrades. Under the proposals, which are currently being finalised into an Outline Business Case for the project, it’s anticipated that there would be two trains per hour in each direction, with journey times to Oxford Station taking between seven and nine minutes. The next stage is to seek funding to develop the Full Business Case.
The walk took place on Friday 17th June, the hottest day of the year so far, and closely tracked the route of the railway, starting at the BMW Mini Plant and walking to the Business Park, Science Park round to Hinksey, before ending up at Oxford Train Station.
Anneliese Dodds, MP for Oxford East, said:
“Since our last walk in 2019, so much progress has been made on getting the line reopened to passengers, and it was so exciting to see physical plans for the railway.
“However, we can’t be complacent and I am grateful to everyone who joined on Friday to keep the momentum going and show the level of support that the project has in Oxford.”
Dan Williams, Director for Asset Management at ARC Oxford, said:
“It’s extremely important to us that we’re able to help the organisations at ARC Oxford innovate, grow and thrive.
“By improving transport infrastructure it will help retain and attract the best talent to Oxford, and improve connectivity for the wider community which in turn will improve wider social and economic wellbeing across the City.
“The most recent travel survey with our customers shows that 30% of them would consider travelling to work by train rather than using the car – that is a huge sustainable improvement the Cowley Branch Line would bring for us at ARC Oxford and the City as a whole.”
Markus Grüneisl, Plant Director at BMW Group MINI Plant Oxford, said:
“As a local business partner, MINI Plant Oxford is encouraged by the continued focus and progress made on projects such as the Cowley Branch Line.
“For our plants in all locations, a future-oriented and sustainable infrastructure, supported by collaboration with industry, local councils and community, is vital.”
Cllr Duncan Enright, Oxfordshire County Council Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, said:
“Cowley Branch Line will be transformative for people in the County. I am impatient, as we all are, to see it built, so it is a pleasure to see the plans developing at pace.”
Nadine Bely-Summers, City Councillor for Littlemore, said:
“Having the Cowley branch line open to passengers and the new station near Minchery Farm is very exciting for Littlemore residents who have been asking for updates on doorstep and over email.
“Residents will in the future be able to get to Oxford central in 9 mins.
“This will be providing reliable sustainable public transport for Littlemore at a time when we want less cars and less pollution on the roads.”