A study into rail improvements in Oxfordshire has recommended increased capacity at Oxford Station, reopening the Cowley branch line and a new platform and extra services at Hanborough.

The Oxfordshire Rail Corridor Study (ORCS) looks at the county’s predicted growth in jobs and housing over the next 20 years and proposes a vision for how the rail network can support it.

It was funded by the Department for Transport and the Oxfordshire Growth Board and produced by Network Rail.

Further recommendations include additional infrastructure to add capacity in and around Didcot, including the proposal for a new station at Wantage or Grove, subject to additional main line infrastructure. It states that proposed improvements are subject to future funding and viable business cases.

Demand for services in the county is expected to increase in the next five to 10 years and the report suggest improving connections between Oxfordshire’s growth hubs and the city’s connections with Birmingham, Reading and Bristol.

The study’s recommendations have been drawn together to form an overarching industry strategy called Oxfordshire Connect, which will be used to decide future investment priorities and help seek future funding.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “This is an important study for mapping out the future needs of Oxfordshire’s rail network as we build back better after Covid-19.

“As new jobs are created and new houses are built, and with its central location in our nation’s rail freight lines, Oxfordshire’s railways will continue to play a key role in the wider network.

“Modernising and upgrading our vital transport links is critical to unleashing our economy and spreading opportunity.”

Cllr Susan Brown, leader of Oxford City Council, said: “This report heralds the start of a rail renaissance for Oxford and the rest of the county.

“It will set our city at the heart of an enhanced network that will open up rail travel to our city centre for many more local people with the creation of the Cowley branch line and new stations at Begbroke and Grove.

“It should make the train the vehicle of choice for getting to Cambridge, Bristol, Birmingham, Heathrow or further afield. And it will also help unlock the West End of Oxford and the creation there, of a new mixed housing and innovation district.”

A summary of the report can be seen here.​

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