PLANS to reopen the Cowley branch line could hit the buffers if the Oxford mainline is not upgraded, according to a new report.

The first stage of a study into railways across Oxfordshire will be discussed by the Oxfordshire Growth Board in Didcot Civic Hall tomorrow afternoon.

According to the Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Study, work on the railway between Oxford and Didcot is 'fundamental' to most other rail upgrades across the county, including the Cowley branch line.

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Council chiefs on the growth board will discuss making the mainline a priority for the next stage of the railway study, due to take place from March onwards.

The study added the Cowley branch line is ‘feasible in engineering and operational terms’ and might costs between £29m and £53m, depending on how much extra work is needed around the track.

It reiterated that new stations should be built at Grenoble Road and Northfield Brook, near the Oxford Science Park.

Oxford Mail:

A map showing the proposed route of the Cowley branch line. Picture: Google Maps.

A new railway station is also recommended for Grove.

According to the study this could be 'justified' by 2028 as people move into massive new housing developments being built in the village and in Wantage.

The Cowley branch line is currently used by freight trains travelling to the BMW Mini plant.

Some have previously predicted it would be reopened to the public by 2019, but delays continue.

The county council’s leader Ian Hudspeth has said using the line again was a ‘no-brainer’.

Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds also said she is confident that the line will reopen and that it is ‘just a question of time’.

The study added improved railways will help tackle climate change, as well as transport the growing population of Oxfordshire.

The Oxfordshire Growth Board is made up of the elected leaders of every district council in Oxfordshire, as well as the leaders of Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council.

Other groups are also involved, including local business leaders.

The Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Study was commissioned in 2017 by the then-Chancellor, Philip Hammond, who pledged £300,000 towards it.

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It has been part-funded by the Oxfordshire Growth Deal.

The Oxfordshire Growth Deal for £215 million funding was agreed in 2017 and is aimed at building new homes, roads and railways across the county.

This includes £60 million for affordable housing and £150 million for infrastructure improvements, including road and rail.

It is claimed it will help to build 100,000 new homes across Oxfordshire between 2011 and 2031.

The growth board was set up to oversee how this money is spent.

Some groups like the Campaign to Protect Rural England and CPRE have criticised the deal for aiming to build more homes than are needed, and have expressed worries about the deal’s environmental impact.

The growth board meeting takes place on Tuesday at 2pm in Didcot Civic Hall.