A CHANCE to save millions on the £123m Oxford flood alleviation channel could be missed if agencies cannot work together, it has been warned.
The Western Conveyance, which received a £26m Government grant last Monday, would divert the Thames from above Botley Road to south of the ring road.
At some point the channel, which is being overseen by the Environment Agency (EA), will have to go underneath the railway.
Network Rail (NR) is carrying out a £1bn electrification of the line into Oxford, which includes raising the track in South Oxford to put it out of flood risk.
This provides an opportunity to dig a culvert for the flood channel if work was done at the same time.
But with the schedule for the Western Conveyance uncertain, Oxfordshire county councillor Bob Johnston fears the opportunity will be missed.
He said: “NR and the EA are talking but I don’t think NR are giving the EA everything they want, so this could end up costing more money in the long run. It’s bonkers, it is much better to do it now than when the line is electrified with 25kv.”
Mr Johnston said he thought the actual cost of the Western Conveyance would be closer to £80m, but the EA had estimated £123m for contingencies.
The EA’s flood risk area manager for Oxford, Barry Russell, said: “The problem is that NR won’t pay for the bypass channel to go underneath the rail.
“In an ideal situation, money would be available to put in a culvert for a future channel at the same stage.”
Mr Russell said with the work costing “many millions” and requiring a significant lead-up time, it was important to make the decision as to whether the works could be done together as soon as possible.
He said: “There would have to be extensive work done beforehand so that when the time comes it can all be done in a number of days.
“Doing it now would be ideal, it is whether the council gets treasury approval to spend the money. We would love for Network Rail to step forward and spend the money.”
Oxford City Council leader Bob Price said he believed the NR scheme could definitely be integrated into the Western Conveyance.
He said: “Talks have yet to start but they do need to do that. Hopefully we can avoid a situation where there is wasted money.”
Network Rail confirmed it will be raising 800m of track in the area of the Old Abingdon Road bridge to reduce the flood risk on the line.
Spokeswoman Victoria Bradley said the firm was looking to do work in autumn 2015.
She said: “We are currently working with the EA to try to understand the requirements of the Western Conveyance and if timings allow then we will look to work with them to incorporate the work.”
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