East West Rail clearance

The Staffordshire Alliance in the UK has won a contract to design and construct the second phase of the £270m East-West Rail (EWR2) project to connect Oxford with Cambridge and Ipswich.

The alliance comprises Atkins, Laing O’Rourke, VolkerRail and Network Rail (NR).

Part of NR’s Railway Upgrade Plan, the project will connect Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley, and Milton Keynes to London Marylebone via Aylesbury.

The new contract follows the introduction of passenger trains from Oxford Parkway station on a reopened line to Bicester and down the London Marylebone as part of the East West Rail Phase 1 scheme.

"By scoping all aspects of the project now, we will see potential problems early and be able to mitigate them."

The alliance is also working together on the £250m Stafford area improvement programme (SAIP) on the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

Work under the first phase of SAIP involves increasing line speed along the 23 miles of track between Crewe and Norton Bridge from 75mph to 100mph.

The Staffordshire Alliance is currently working on the outline design and construction programme for the project, which will see a rail link through Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

Network Rail senior programme manager and alliance manager Andy Milne said: "We are an alliance of four equal parts working as one team. Never before on a rail project of this size has an alliance been convened this early.

"By scoping all aspects of the project now, we will see potential problems early and be able to mitigate them. The earlier we do this work, the greater value for taxpayers’ money we can deliver."

"The alliance is a completely integrated team where all parties share in the benefits and risks. This will help drive down costs, reduce risks and lead to the more efficient and timely delivery of the project."

Following completion of this initial segment of work, the alliance will consult with the UK Department for Transport (DfT) to agree a final design, construction timetable and costs.

The alliance also intends to submit an application for a Transport & Works Act order in 2016.

Scope of work under the EWR2 project includes construction of a new station at Winslow, two new platforms at Bletchley, 18 new overbridges, 22 new footbridges/subways and upgrade of 97 level crossings.

The East West Rail project involves upgrading and reconstructing underused and mothballed sections of the railway that connects the Great Western, Chiltern, West Coast and Midland main lines north of London, as well as provide a strategic east-west route connecting key centres.

Image: East West Rail route clearance. Photo: courtesy of Network Rail.