DELAYS to the electrification of the railway line between Oxford and Didcot could provide an opportunity to improve rail links along Oxfordshire’s economic and science growth corridor, according to a rail campaign group.

Initially due for completion next month, the electrification work was put back to 2019 as a result of slow progress on installation of 25,000-volt overhead power cables between London and Didcot and delays installing new signals around Oxford.

Rail Minister Paul Maynard then announced at the start of this month that there would be a further delay into the early 2020s.

But Railfuture says the need to continue to provide a local diesel service north of Didcot could be solved by extending Chiltern Railways’ services from London and Bicester to Oxford as far as Didcot Parkway for an interim period.

Great Western Railway (GWR) express services between London, Oxford and the Cotswold Line through West Oxfordshire will not be affected by the lack of electric cables north of Didcot.

However, electric trains which will take over the GWR stopping services on the route to Reading and London will not be able to reach Oxford until the overhead power cables are installed. These trains are expected to be introduced on London-Didcot services in December next year.

As a result, many passengers can expect to face an enforced change at Didcot, switching between electric trains to the south and diesel trains to the north.

This will break direct links between Oxford, Radley, Culham and Appleford and stations further south and east in the Thames Valley, including Cholsey and Goring & Streatley.

Richard Stow, the chairman of the Thames Valley branch of campaign group Railfuture, said: “It would be great if the Chiltern service could be extended to Didcot, providing a good cross-Oxford service as an interim measure and a rail service along the knowledge corridor from Bicester through Oxford to the Science Vale around Didcot.”

A GWR spokesman said: “We are working with the Department for Transport and Network Rail to finalise the details for local services until Network Rail is able to complete electrification between Didcot and Oxford.”