A GOVERNMENT-BACKED study that could see the Cowley Branch Line reopened by the end of next year is set to get back on track.

In his Budget last year, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged to give £300,000 to co-fund a study which would look into potential new stations, services and routes across Oxfordshire.

The remit and scope of that study, which has already identified upgrades to Oxford Station and the Cowley Branch Line project as being crucial, will be agreed next week.

The major redevelopment of Oxford Station has been delayed due to funding problems but some improvement work is expected to take place in the coming months to brighten up the station.

Oxfordshire Growth Board could agree a £200,000 contribution when it meets on Monday as local authorities and partners look to press ahead with the study.

Oxfordshire County Council’s strategic director, Bev Hindle, said: “The upgrade of capacity and station facilities at Oxford Station will play a central role in terms of enabling other rail proposals.

“The study work will have a tighter project timescale than originally envisaged by Network Rail, with the majority of outputs anticipated to be available by the end of the 2018/19 business year.”

He added: “Development of the feasibility work required for the Cowley Branch Line will progress in parallel with the wider study.”

Other projects which could be carried out as a result of the study are not yet known but all routes in the county will be examined.

However Network Rail’s initial findings reported that Hanborough and Radley stations had seen significant growth in recent years, which could put them in line for improved links.

Plans to build thousands of new houses across Oxfordshire will also inform any decisions.

County councillor John Howson, who lives near Oxford Station, said it needed urgent improvements, such as introducing ticket barriers at the west entrance and improving the toilets.

It comes after the station was named the second worst in the country in a customer satisfaction survey.

The Oxford Mail understands that some work, particularly to the toilets, will be carried out in the next few months.

The other big area being looked at by rail bosses would see the city linked to key employment areas within 15 minutes.

Prior to November’s Budget, a National Infrastructure Commission report said failure to revive services between Oxford and the east of the city by 2019 – which could be achieved by reopening the Cowley Branch Line –could set back the city’s economic growth.

Chiltern Railways managing director Dave Penney said the timescales were ‘ambitious’ but welcomed the proposals and the study.

Senior officials believe that a limited service could be possible on the old Cowley line by the end of next year, which could then grow in time.

In November 2014 a passenger service - boarded by business leaders, politicians and train enthusiasts - travelled along the line with a temporary stop erected at Oxford Science Park, proving how easily the route could be unlocked.

Earlier this year the Oxford Mail revealed that Oxford Science Park has already drawn up plans for its own station.