A new feasibility study has set out the case for a railway route connecting Carterton, Witney, and Eynsham to Oxford.
The preliminary strategic outline case for the Carterton-Witney-Oxford Rail Corridor (CWORC) was commissioned by Oxfordshire County Council following proposals from the Witney Oxford Transport (WOT) Group.
The aim was to establish if there is a strategic need for the proposed railway line and to give an indication of the likely investment required.
The study has shown that building a rail link would be feasible and could be justified in transport strategy terms but identifies several planning and environmental issues. It also warns about the high financial cost and difficulty involved in undertaking such a project. However, if it went ahead, it would be predicted to be profitable.
The study suggests the journey to and from Oxford could take as little as 23 minutes from Carterton, 16 minutes from Witney, and 11 minutes from Eynsham (subject to a more detailed assessment of track and platform capacity).
This would represent a saving of around an hour compared to anticipated bus and car journey times in 2031.
However, construction costs of building the rail line alone are estimated by the report at between £700 to £900 million, with the scheme potentially being delivered in phases – although no route has been decided at this stage. It would therefore be a long-term project and would also depend on other rail improvements being funded and completed, including the planned upgrade to the North Cotswold Line.
West Oxfordshire District Council welcomed the CWORC study and said it strongly supports the work to explore the potential new rail link.
Councillor Duncan Enright, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Travel and Development Strategy, said: “We are delighted to see the publication of this study exploring future sustainable options for transport between West Oxfordshire and Oxford.
“We really hope that it will prompt much-needed government investment into ambitious rail enhancement in Oxfordshire and take pressure off the overstretched A40. A rail link could save more than one million car miles and 100 tonnes of carbon emissions from car use every year as well as making travel easier for commuters and other visitors.”
Councillor Andy Graham, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “We declared a climate emergency in 2019 and reducing our carbon emissions from road-based transport is vital if we are to meaningfully tackle the emergency and help meet the 2050 national zero target.
“The county council’s A40 improvement programmes will clearly go a long way towards improving opportunities for walking, cycling and public transport through bus priority measures and enhanced cycle and pedestrian routes. However, it is sensible to consider what more can potentially be done in the longer term, including the part that a rail-based solution could possibly play.”