A RADICAL new rail route through West Oxfordshire is the 'silver bullet' that will fix the district's 'chronic' transport woes, campaigners say.

The Witney Oxford Transport Group (WOT) has proposed a new line running from Hanborough to Carterton, via Eynsham and Ducklington, to ease congestion on the A40.

WOT believes a new railway is the only solution to the district's transport problems and Oxfordshire County Council's £180m plans to upgrade the A40 will make little difference.

In 2015, the county council proposed a conceptual Witney to Oxford rail route costing an estimated £285m, but it remains concerned about the commercial viability of a new service for a train operator.

Meanwhile, Witney MP Robert Courts, who has pushed for an integrated transport network in West Oxfordshire, called for WOT to add 'greater detail' to its proposals.

Read again: Cross-party support to improve West Oxfordshire's rail links

Mr Courts has previously called to dual the train tracks on the Cotswold Line, but Hugh Jaeger, one of WOT's founders, believes a completely new line is more important.

Oxford Mail:

Mr Jaeger said: “The Cotswold line desperately needs doubling, but the biggest prize is reopening the railway to Witney.

“It would be extremely helpful if Robert Courts came around to the Witney railway solution for the southern half of West Oxfordshire.

“He has said there's no silver bullet for transport - there is, it’s the railway."

Maurizio Fantato. Witney Oxford Transport Group meet with Robert Courts to discuss solutions to the ever-growing problem of the A40.L-R Robert Courts, Raymond Hall and Maurizio Fantato...Picture by Richard Cave 28.07.17.Maurizio Fantato. Witney Oxford Transport Group meet with Robert Courts to discuss solutions to the ever-growing problem of the A40.L-R Robert Courts, Raymond Hall and Maurizio Fantato...Picture by Richard Cave 28.07.17.

Mr Jaeger stressed the new route, introduced in WOT's video ‘Campaigning for sustainable transport in West Oxfordshire’, was 'only 'indicative'.

Phase one would see the railway connect Hanborough Station with the proposed Eynsham park-and-ride, which is included in the county council's plans for the A40.

The line carries on to a station at Ducklington, south of Witney, in phase two of WOT's vision.

In phase three, the line continues to Carterton, with a spur line to serve the 'urgent transport needs' of RAF Brize Norton.

According to the 2011 census, there were 45,000 people in West Oxfordshire with a job, but only 25,000 of those worked in the district.

Mr Jaeger said the rail route would ease the impact of this 'structural problem', which sees 20,000 people commute from the district each day.

Read again: Campaigners' call to prioritise rail

WOT has previously said improving rail links in West Oxfordshire would help ensure the successful delivery of the district's Local Plan, which sets out where to build 15,950 houses between 2011 and 2031.

Mr Courts, who led a Parliamentary debate on improvements to the Cotswold Line last March, welcomed the proposals but encouraged WOT to submit more detailed plans.

He said: “I have always been clear that I want public transport to form a key part of an integrated transport network in West Oxfordshire.

“WOT has some interesting ideas which I have discussed with them at length, both in a face-to-face meeting and written correspondence.

“I have suggested that the group would benefit from providing greater detail on what they are actually proposing and the likely costs involved, so that residents and I can properly analyse the deliverability and desirability of their ideas.

“Residents will particularly want clarity on the likely impact of the group’s ideas on the rural nature of West Oxfordshire.

“I look forward to the group producing this detail in due course and will look carefully at their proposals.”

Oxford Mail:


The county council's conceptual route involved building a new, single-track railway line, with double track running through stations that have two platforms.

Diesel-powered trains would run from south of Ducklington roundabout, near Witney, and join the old railway line near South Leigh.

They would then pass between Eynsham and the B4449 before joining the Cotswold Line at Yarnton, with trains carrying on to Oxford Station.

This was one of five options offered in a county council consultation in 2015 to find a long term solution for the A40.

It was supported by 51 per cent of more than 800 respondents, although some commenters expressed fears over expense and capacity.

Read again: £180m upgrades to ease congestion on A40

This was reflected in an Oxfordshire County Council cabinet paper from May 2016, which read: "A key economic concern for pursuing heavy rail any further is the unlikelihood that a commercially viable rail service (for a rail operator) could be delivered based on the estimated low frequency of trains.

"Capacity issues on the rail line through Oxford station would also be likely to place a similar constraint on the level of service that could be provided.

"Beyond considerations about the commercial viability of this to support the investment in the infrastructure, that level of service raises questions about its attractiveness to users, particularly for short distance journeys to Oxford."

County council spokesperson Martin Crabtree revealed the organisation was open to an integrated transport solution, but upgrading the A40 was its current focus.

He said: "The county council supports development of rail services as outline in the Local Transport Plan Rail Strategy.

"In the immediate term, the council is committed to delivering the A40 Strategy as outlined in the cabinet paper of May 2016 and is positively pursuing funding through the Local Growth Fund and the Housing Infrastructure Fund."

Network Rail did not respond to a request for comment.