COLD weather and electrification delays have been blamed for ‘intolerable’ engine noise keeping Oxford residents awake into the early hours – and sleepless nights could continue until May.

Trains idling at the Oxford sidings in North Oxford have sparked complaints from residents living in nearby William Lucy Way.

The sidings are currently being refurbished by Network Rail and the available sidings near homes are being used more frequently.

Trees, which shielded the houses from the sidings, near Rewley Road and Walton Well Road, have also been cut down.

Former Oxford City Council leader Bob Price has written to Sir Peter Hendy – chairman of Network Rail – demanding fencing be installed to mitigate the noise.

But Network Rail said the benefits would have to outweigh the costs for it to install fencing and it was waiting on the results of an independent noise assessment.

Trackside resident Jonathan Bowen also wrote to GWR’s head of sustainability, Chris Illman, about the ‘intolerable’ situation.

He said: “GWR is currently leaving idling trains in place next to William Lucy Way much of the night as well as during the day.

“We are being woken regularly around 3am now.

“I am sure you will say this is because of the cold weather but the fact is that these sidings are not suitable for stabling of old idling trains.

“They were designed for electric trains where this would not be a problem.”

He said the trains should be stored in Banbury where sidings are away from residential properties.

Another resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said the noise in the early hours of Sunday morning was ‘totally unbearable’.

He said it began at 11.10pm and continued without break until 1.15am, before being started up again at 7.45am.

He said: “The noise from several trains across three new sidings was worse than ever.

“Trains were idling and revving so loudly that I was unable to sleep despite resorting to earplugs again.”

“This further demonstrates GWR/ Network Rail’s complete and total disregard for their neighbours’ wellbeing.

“This cannot continue and must be addressed immediately, we cannot wait until May.”

Mr Illman admitted the cold weather meant trains had to idle for ‘longer than usual’ and said GWR was ‘confined’ by the infrastructure provided by Network Rail.

On Sunday, he said: “Our teams are doing everything they can to minimise the noise at the sidings, whilst trying to minimise any impact on the train services to and from Oxford.

“In January we were able to reduce the number of trains stabled in the sidings by altering the timetable, and the introductions of new electric fleets between Didcot and London.

“As I am sure you are aware, unfortunately electrification has been delayed to Oxford, therefore we cannot run our electric trains.

“Until the sidings works are fully refurbished we are therefore limited by what other steps can be taken.”

He added that timetable changes to allow late night and early morning services to side at Banbury were also being considered but would take time for agreements to be made.

Responding to Mr Price’s request for fencing, Network Rail’s community relations manager, Lily Exton, said: “Any requests for fencing must be carefully considered.

“We have a finite budget and aren’t funded for additional costs such as this.

“We also have to decide whether the benefits of installing fencing outweigh the costs; sometimes there is not much to be gained so it is not viable for us to erect fencing.”

She said an independent noise assessment, carried out by Southampton University, would inform the rail firm of any measures that may or may not be required.

The report is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

Mr Price, unhappy with the response, said: “The work on the sidings at Rewley Road / Walton Well Road has had a very negative effect on the lives of a large number of families, who were previously shielded from train noise and visibility by a large and dense band of trees. Experience on other sections of the line through Oxford has shown very clearly that acoustic fencing makes a substantial and measurable difference.”