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Proposal underway for a new rail freight terminal near Bicester

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Proposal underway for a new rail freight terminal in Oxford
Public consultation on a proposal for a vast new warehouse and rail freight interchange terminal near Bicester opens this week. Image: Network Rail

Public consultation on a proposal for a vast new warehouse and rail freight interchange terminal near Bicester in the Oxfordshire countryside opens this week.

A Channel Islands-based company, Oxfordshire Railfreight Limited, is preparing plans for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on land immediately south and adjacent to the Chiltern Main Line.

The site is potentially crucial to producers and exporters in Oxford and is not far from the East Midlands, generally regarded as the ‘Golden Triangle’ for UK logistics operators. Given its strategic importance, the proposals meet the criteria to be considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.

As such, the submissions will be subject to an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) which will be submitted for examination by the Planning Inspectorate, who will process the application. Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, will then consider the Inspector’s recommendation and determine the application.

A sweet spot for logistics

It is broadly agreed that the UK needs more warehousing to cope with the changing supply and demand patterns in the UK economy. Modal shift to rail also requires far more of that provision to be rail connected.

This latest proposal is just the latest of a string of similar developments, many of them in a broad arc, reaching out from the East Midlands – a sweet spot for logistics operations because of its central geographical location, large market and good communications – including connections with ports around the UK.

Site for the proposed rail freight interchange hub in Bicester, Oxfordshire
Site for the proposed rail freight interchange hub in Bicester, Oxfordshire

The proposals from Oxfordshire Railfreight have gone out to public consultation. The developers know that it may not be plain sailing for such a sizeable proposal in an environmentally sensitive area well known for a population fiercely opposed to change. The first round of public consultation gets underway this week, with a second round scheduled for this Winter.

Needs of existing and future businesses

At around one hour from London, the site has considerable collateral benefits. It is also adjacent to disused Upper Hayford Airfield, which is currently used for storing finished cars awaiting delivery, and there is potential for redevelopment of the runways. The interchange would also be within a few minutes of the new East West Rail line.

According to Oxfordshire Railfreight, the UK government is committed to expanding the network of SRFI across the regions. They say there are currently no SRFIs along the Chiltern corridor and none which serve Oxfordshire.

“An Oxfordshire SRFI would be capable of expanding the existing network of SRFIs, meet the needs of existing and future businesses in Oxfordshire, and be capable of helping to meet the needs of London and the Midlands”, they say.

“The site is ideally located adjacent to the M40 motorway and the south of the Chiltern Railway – part of the strategic rail freight network. Our plans look to meet the needs of the logistics industry in serving manufacturers, distributors and retailers by capitalising on the site’s locational strengths and connectivity to the railway and motorway networks.”

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