The Way Forward

Liz Leffman

When waiting at Charlbury Station for the train into Oxford I am often conscious of how fortunate I am to live in a town that is served by the railway – the majority of settlements in Oxfordshire and elsewhere are not so lucky.

However, it’s important not to let that thought dwell too long. A feeling of gratitude for what we have can lead to a dulling of ambition for improvements. As leader of Oxfordshire County Council and as a resident of Charlbury I share with the community and local campaigners a real desire to see a long list of things done to bring positive change to the North Cotswold Line.

The period immediately following a general election, with a new rail minister in place, is the perfect time to raise the profile of the line among the decision makers at Whitehall who allocate money and prioritise.

We need to combat the impression that the route is a sleepy branch line for those looking for a break in the Cotswolds. The countryside and villages along the line may be idyllic and tourists do use the line. However our railway is a major commuter route from Hereford and Worcester into Oxford and London and it deserves to be given that level of priority by decision makers.

I use the line at least twice a week and often more. We all know that the single track stretches of the route, the signalling (especially around Worcester) and other constraints all prevent the true potential of this line being unlocked.

At the county council we are determined to give people viable options to use public transport instead of their cars.

The journey from Charlbury to Oxford or beyond often involves very full carriages (especially between Tuesday and Thursday), and parking difficulties for those who travel from outside the town from the surrounding villages to make their connection. There’s also a lack of bus services to make those crucial connections that make it viable for people to leave the car at home.

We know that housebuilding along the line is scheduled to increase significantly and this is going to compound these existing issues. The line’s infrastructure needs to keep pace and preferably outpace this change.

From a Charlbury perspective we’d ideally have two trains an hour into Oxford and London. We need to do so much more to attract people to use the line rather than using their car to their destination or driving to Oxford Parkway.

Raising the profile of the line is something that I and colleagues at the county council, together with the leaders in the other counties along the line, are determined to persist with in coming times. It’s our role to represent the commuters, the residents, the volunteers who look after our stations and the tourists who bring money into our area. We intend to do that at the highest levels in Whitehall at every opportunity.


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