A CALL has gone out to rail bosses to find a solution to a busy Bicester level crossing as part of the multi-million pound East West Rail project.

Council chiefs have asked for a bridge or tunnel to be considered in order to allow cars, cyclists and pedestrians to bypass the London Road level crossing.

The plea came as part of Oxfordshire County Council's response to the latest consultation on plans for upgrading and connecting the railway from Oxford through to Milton Keynes and Cambridge.

The response, to be formally approved by the council's cabinet next week, said current 'barrier down' times at the London Road crossing are about 14 minutes each hour, which includes two trains in each direction.

This 'down time' is expected to roughly double as barriers are expected to be down between 30 and 34 minutes an hour with the introduction of the core East West Rail (EWR) service of an additional four trains in each direction.

The trains could start running in the early 2020s once phase two is complete.

More frequent trains could run once future phases are complete, which would mean the barriers being down for even longer.

The council wants rail bosses to commit to finding a solution for the crossing before this happens.

County council leader, Ian Hudspeth, said: “It’s crucial we find a solution when it comes to London Road crossing or half of Bicester will be cut off.

“The crossing could be down for as much time as it is up – we need a solution to it.”

The council response said the EWR project is 'contingent upon a solution for London Road level crossing being approved and funded.'

It added that because crossing improvements in London Road are not part of the scope of phase two, they are unlikely to happen until the mid to late 2020s.

Oxfordshire county councillor for Bicester West Les Sibley said: "With all the development going on in the area it is a vital route into the town and every minute those barriers are down increases the pressure on Bicester's road network.

"So it is good news in regards to the barrier down time, which they seem to have made some small improvements to from what was previously predicted.

"It raises the question of freight trains and whether that will cause longer down times.

"It is good news short term but again just leaves us in a cloud of uncertainty.

"It is a critical through road and we need to make the right decision and make it soon."

The council response is part of the latest consultation being staged by Network Rail on plans for the western section phase two.

Phase two will connect Bicester to Milton Keynes and Bedford via Bletchley.

It follows phase one, which saw the line upgraded last year to connect Oxford, Bicester and London Marylebone.

County council cabinet member for environment Yvonne Constance said: "East West Rail is a once in a generation opportunity to secure a huge step in connectivity within Oxfordshire and across the whole Oxfordshire to Cambridgeshire area.

"It is a key part of the Government’s investment plan for the Oxford to Cambridge growth corridor, and the new infrastructure and rail services it provides would bring more frequent services in Oxfordshire directly connecting Bicester, Oxford and Didcot."

As part of phase two of the project Bicester is earmarked for a number of infrastructure improvements along the line, including a new bridge over the Charbridge Lane level crossing.

The plans for phase are out for consultation today at Launton Sports and Social Club in Bicester Road from midday to 8pm.

They can also be viewed online networkrail.co.uk/east-west-rail

Network Rail will consider the responses, including the county council's call for a crossing upgrade, before work begins on phase two.