A NEW railway station could be open in Grove as soon as 2028, according to the latest report.

The first stage of a study into railways across Oxfordshire was discussed by Oxfordshire Growth Board in Didcot Civic Hall yesterday.

The Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Study says that work on the railway between Oxford and Didcot is 'fundamental' to most other rail upgrades across the county, and recommends a new railway station is built near Wantage in the next eight years, at the earliest.

The boost also came as the government yesterday launched a £500 million fund to restore railway lines closed in the so-called Beeching Cuts of the 1960s, such as the the old Wantage Road Station at Grove.

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According to the study the station could be 'justified' by 2028 as people move into the massive new housing developments being built in the area.

But the new station could not be built without new ‘significant infrastructure’, beyond just building a new station building.

Upgrades to the Great Western Mainline services would also have to be considered when planning a railway station at Grove, the authors say.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Wantage Jenny Hannaby welcomed the findings of the study.

Oxford Mail:

The Volunteer Pub on Station Road, Grove, next to the site of the old Wantage Road Station.

Mrs Hannaby said: “I have been told that Grove station is still being worked on by officers.

“Infrastructure is absolutely vital for the sustainability of growth in [Wantage] and I am disappointed that Grove station is slipping down the list.

“But I am pleased it is still being worked on and county councillors including myself will be keeping Grove station on the agenda.”

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Reopening Grove station has long been a priority for local residents.

Before announcing his retirement as the area’s MP, Ed Vaizey made renewed calls for bringing the former Wantage Road Station, closed in 1964, back into use.

In February last year he raised the proposed station’s importance as a stop on the main line between Bristol and Oxford during a parliamentary debate.

When Vale of White Horse District Council agreed its Local Plan in 2017, it set aside pockets of land it owned for developments related to the railway.

Oxford Mail:

Former Vale of White Horse district councillor Matt Barber on the bridge over the former Wantage Road Station site.

At the meeting yesterday, council chiefs gave their backing to making the mainline a priority for the next stage of the railway study, due to take place from March onwards.

It said improved railways would 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.

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

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Despite the involvement of local government in discussing the reopening of Grove station and other rail projects, local politics has little direct control over the railways.

Railways are instead in the control of the Department for Transport, with work on the railway lines carried out by the arms-length government agency Network Rail.

Yesterday the government officially launched a new £500m fund to restore rail services around the county, which communities will be able to apply for a share of in due course.

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.