Study to build case for reopening Cowley line to passengers

19 January 2024


Oxford City Council has commissioned a study to develop the case for reopening the Cowley Branch Line to passengers. 

The line, which has been closed to passengers since 1963, is currently used only for freight services to BMW’s Cowley manufacturing plant. If funding is secured for the implementation phase, the rail track would be upgraded for reinstated passenger rail services, with two new stations at ‘Oxford Littlemore’ (near Oxford Science Park) and ‘Oxford Cowley’ (near ARC Oxford).

As part of a £4.5m package to reopen the line, an Infrastructure Place Study, led by SLC Rail, will aim to ensure that the rail scheme is fully integrated with existing communities, maximising options to improve local movement and connectivity. 

This work, supported by Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council and local landowners, will happen in parallel with the development of the finance and funding strategy to support the project’s Full Business Case.

The Infrastructure Place Study multi-disciplinary team includes 5th Studio (spatial framework), SLC Property (property and planning), Anthony Collins Solicitors (legal planning policy), Transition by Design (stakeholder engagement), and Maddison Graphic (engagement material).

SLC Rail will work with Network Rail, which is developing the engineering design for the rail infrastructure and core station solutions, and producing the Full Business Case, drawing upon previous development work. 

Together the SLC Rail and Network Rail work packages will aim to deliver seamless station design solutions that meet the requirements of local stakeholders to promote modal shift to sustainable rail transportation.

Sam Uren, Director of SLC Rail, said: “This is the type of exciting project we like to get involved with, and we’re keen to contribute to its progression so that the new stations are thoughtfully integrated and fully accessible to maximise the positive impact to the communities within southeast Oxford.”

Tom Holbrook, Director of 5th Studio, said: “The Infrastructure Place Study for the Cowley Branch line will build on our thinking for the National Infrastructure Commission on good growth in the Oxford to Cambridge Arc. It joins a suite of projects at different scales in the practice that aim for better integrated rail infrastructure and urban planning.”

Find out more about these and other developments at Rail Stations + Property on 5 March in London, organised by Landor LINKS, sponsored by Burges Salmon and supported by LTT.

The event will focus on: changing travel patterns, including the resurgence of leisure travel; stations as hubs, with a focus on mobility hubs; and transport-led development with a spotlight on major UK projects.

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