"People have been calling to restore the Carterton to Oxford rail line for years," wrote Councillor Dan Levy in the Witney Gazette last week (18 Feb, 2021). The Lib Dems have made this a key policy and, he says, "we may at last be getting somewhere."
If you haven't heard about the proposed train line between Oxford, Witney and Carterton before, the Witney-Oxford Transport (WOT) Group, a cross-party community group that is working on the nuts and bolts of the project and building up stakeholder support, has posted a potential route of the train line here. The group is in the process of applying to the new government rail fund to finance a feasibility study, which requires sponsorship from an MP. That MP will be Layla Moran, the Lib Dem MP for West Oxford and Abingdon. Witney's MP, Robert Courts, has recused himself as a transport minister and has not yet stated his position either for or against.
However, the national minister for rail, Chris Heaton-Harris, has been very encouraging of a Witney-Oxford rail application to the Ideas Fund, stating that the "Witney to Oxford line....would be ideal for this fund. That is exactly the sort of thing we are looking at, areas where we can make a difference with not too big sums of money."
At a local level, Oxfordshire County Council recently agreed to a much-needed review of transport in the "A40 corridor", including looking at rail options. West Oxfordshire District Council last month also passed a motion, brought by Dan Levy, to support the review. Other stakeholders who are now also supporting a feasibility study include Witney Town Council, Carterton Town Council, Eynsham Parish Council and Oxford University.
WHY WE WANT A TRAIN LINKING OUR COMMUNITIES
The Lib Dems believe a train between Oxford, Witney and Carterton is vital for:
* Reducing journey times by more than 70%, with Oxford being reachable from Eynsham in 9 minutes, from Witney in 16 and from Carterton in 22.
* Cutting congestion on the A40, especially as plans for thousands of houses puts more pressure on infrastructure that is already at breaking point. (You can watch a video of how things are going in the village of Eynsham here).
* Reducing carbon emissions. The transport sector is the biggest generator of CO2 emissions in West Oxfordshire, with road transport generating 98% of these emissions. A rail solution will be sustainable with already commercialised battery-powered trains which are quiet, have no overhead wires and emit no pollutants.
POLITICS IS CRUCIAL
Many people regard support for this train line as a non-political issue. It should be, but unfortunately some Tories, especially one or two in leadership roles, continue to oppose even a feasibility study exploring the rail line. Yvonne Constance, the cabinet member responsible for transport, stated in November "a new line to Witney does not form part of the long term strategic vision for rail in Oxfordshire". Their plan—providing 'express' bus lanes for four miles from a Park & Ride at Eynsham—is going to make a minimal difference to journey times either into or around Oxford.
The existing Tory stranglehold on our local government means we currently have no viable plan for solving West Oxfordshire's transport problems. The best way to make sure that the Carterton-Witney-Oxford railway goes ahead is to elect councillors who are serious about fast, feasible and sustainable public transport solutions. Remember, the next local elections are May 6th, 2021 and your vote really matters.
SIGN OUR PETITION
If you've haven't yet signed the petition stating your support for rebuilding the train line from Oxford to Witney and Carterton, you can do so here. Please share it with friends if you think it's a good idea, as strong public support is critical.