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Column 27th September 2017

Call me one-track-minded, but why don't we have a monorail in Wantage?

Earlier this summer the Department for Transport (DfT) announced that it will invest more than £16 million in the five schemes under its New Stations Fund.

The announcement is the second round of funding for the scheme. The initial round saw money go towards new railway stations at Newcourt (Exeter), Lea Bridge (London), Pye Corner (Newport), Ilkeston (Derbyshire) and Kenilworth (Warwickshire).

The latest successful bids are Horden Peterlee (County Durham), Warrington West (Cheshire), Reading Green Park, Bow Street in Ceredigion (Wales), and Portway Parkway (Bristol).

The DfT said that most of these schemes support the housing development and have the potential to unlock thousands of new jobs.

You will note that Grove station does not appear on this list, even though it was supposedly on the list of top ten stations to be re-opened by Network Rail and even though local MPs from Oxford to Bristol are said to be strongly supportive of the need for the station.

At an event recently, someone was promoting the idea of a tram/light rail system linking the areas of major developments around the Oxfordshire knowledge spine in the Vale.

Running on a loop every 5 minutes, we could have a circular system linking Wantage, Grove, Hanney, Marcham, Abingdon, Oxford, Culham, Milton Park, Didcot Parkway, Didcot, Harwell, Harwell Science Area, and back to Wantage.  These systems work well on the continent and there is no reason why they shouldn’t work here.

Of course this would need to be funded,

but as the chairman of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (Jeremy Long) is also CEO for Europe of the Hong-Kong headquartered international railway and property group MTR Corporation anything should be possible.

All visionary transport undertakings have traditionally come up against the “too difficult – too expensive” arguments but the long term benefits are immeasurable and doing nothing isn’t an option.

The Great Western Railway was also once too difficult until the desire of Bristol merchants to maintain their city as the second port of the country created the funding required.

Could we not have OxLEP or the Oxford Growth Board promoting something like this in Oxfordshire or aren’t our universities, businesses and government interested in visionary transport?


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