Northampton could take advantage of a proposed new railway line to link up with a major regeneration hotspot in London.
Plans are currently underway to build a new line, known as East West Rail, linking Bedford and Cambridge as part of a plan to connect Oxford to Cambridge on a direct service.
But a group of local authorities think the build could also be a chance to indirectly connect Northampton to the Old Oak Station in west London, an area earmarked to create 25,000 new homes and 65,000 new jobs.
The Old Oak Station, scheduled to open in 2026, will be an interchange for the Heathrow Express, HS2 and Crossrail, and transport group Englands Economic Heartland believe Northampton can profit from the build.
Councillor Heather Smith, leader of Northamptonshire County Council and chairman of England’s Economic Heartland’s strategic transport forum, said: “We all know the benefits East West Rail will bring to Northampton in terms of providing connections to cities such as Oxford and Cambridge, and faster travel to Bedford. However, although it might not be obvious from its name, East West Rail actually has the potential to benefit all points on the compass.
“A new north-south rail corridor between Northampton, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury will provide a step change in connectivity between key centres of growth in the arc. An added benefit is the opportunity to gain direct access to significant new economic and travel opportunities, not only at Old Oak Common –which provides an express connection to Heathrow – but also in Buckinghamshire.
“However, to enable additional passenger services on the section between Northampton and Milton Keynes, it is vital that the opportunity to reallocate use of capacity on the West Coast Mainline - which HS2 will create when it opens in 2026 - is used appropriately. That’s why England’s Economic Heartland is working with the Department for Transport and prospective train operators to ensure the region’s strategic requirements are taken into account.”
England’s Economic Heartland is the sub-national Transport Body for the Oxford to Cambridge region.
East West Rail’s ‘Western Section’ between Oxford and Bedford should be open by 2022, with Aylesbury to Milton Keynes following in 2024. The Government is aiming for the ‘Central Section’ between Bedford and Cambridge to be open by the ‘mid 2020s’.