​Network Rail looks to build out from East West Rail

Posted on 08 April 2022

Network Rail looks to build out from East West Rail

Network Rail has released its East West Main Line (EWML) strategic statement, setting out its aims for east west connectivity from Cardiff to Norwich.

The East West Rail (EWR) programme between Oxford and Cambridge is currently under construction by a specially created entitity East West Railway Co (EWR Co), rather than Network Rail. This document outlines how the rail operator will look to expand it further in the future, connecting towns and cities in the geographic area seen below:


The strategic statement does not intend to change EWR’s programme but “uses the EWR configuration as a baseline from which the opportunity to expand the remit is explored.” It also looks at the ways it can be integrated the Midland, East Coast and West Coast Main Lines.

The strategic statement does not include any concrete plans for the future EWML, nor ask for funds, but is intended to offer “a long-term vision which should guide decision-making regarding areas of constraint and can be achieved either through bespoke, incremental interventions or as part of a larger future programme”.

It sets out Network Rail’s EWML principle aims, which are:

  • Passenger services covering a wider geographic area than currently remitted

  • Ensuring that EWR’s infrastructure changes do not preclude the potential of future service to additional locations

  • An appropriate service frequency and pattern to best reduce journey times

  • Ensuring the EWR’s infrastructure changes do not preclude exploration of new national routing options for freight

  • Electrification of the route to offer better rolling stock performance, align with the Traction Decarbonisation Network Strategy (TDNS) and contribute to the decarbonisatoin of the rail network

  • Integration of the European Traffic Control System digital signalling to enhance future capacity

Network Rail has decided on these principles on the basis that they will more comprehensively achieve strategic outcomes for rail – drawn from government and industry long-term objectives.

It states that in order to achieve the EWML vision over the long term, decisions need to be made immediately to address emergent constraints. These constraints are mostly in the way that EWR interfaces with the existing rail network, and Network Rail says it will work with the Department for Transport (DfT) and EWR Co to overcome them.

The constraints include:

  • Insufficient capacity at Oxford station to enable planned EWR services to terminate in a way that would permit further additional services without major station remodelling

  • A single line between Aylesbury and Claydon; use of this line will require upgraded infrastructure to allow EWR services between Aylesbury and Milton Keynes, with the nature of the enhancement determined by the capacity required over the long-term.

  • Work done to date on timetable development indicates that the EWRCo base specification will not be able to operate reliably on the West Coast Main Line and that capacity released by HS2 may be required to deliver the balance of paths

  • Marston Vale Line (to become part of EWR between Bletchley and Bedford) is served by a low frequency, all stops service. In order to maintain acceptable journey times and connectivity, this infrastructure will need to be enhanced, potentially alongside station rationalisation which is being considered as an option currently within the EWR remit

  • The Midland Main Line is currently heavily constrained with no additional capacity available for use by EWR services without a significant and unacceptable associated performance impact; new infrastructure may be needed to segregate east/west services from existing main lines in order to protect main line operability

  • Currently a new high/low level station is planned at the interface between EWR and the East Coast Main Line with no direct physical connection between lines; the impacts of aligning service patterns at the station will need to be taken into account to facilitate the most efficient potential for interchange for passengers

  • Planning for East West Rail services to continue eastwards beyond Cambridge will require significantly more complex and costly remodelling of the railway around Cambridge than the minimum enhancements required to terminate trains at Cambridge

  • Additional connections and infrastructure may need to be considered to provide alternative strategic routes for freight, with other infill projects needed to achieve electrified routes using East West Rail infrastructure in future

  • At present, East West Rail infrastructure is not planned to be electrified. Changes to scope will need to be considered if fully electrified routes using the new infrastructure are required

  • The new infrastructure will host services that may use digital signalling in future. The most effective way to integrate the East West Rail programme will be based on alignment with the wider national roll-out plan for digital signalling on the national network

Specific interventions to deal with the constraints will be subject to the usual business case as specified by the DfT.

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