TWO Oxfordshire councils have told Government they are objecting to a critical part of the East West Rail project – because worries haven’t been addressed.

Oxfordshire County Council and Cherwell District Council’s leaders have written to the transport secretary Chris Grayling outlining concerns over work between Bicester Village and Bedford.

Ian Hudspeth and Barry Wood say they worry some Government work in a key document is ‘misleading’ and needs more work.

The councils say studies only note the peak impact on junctions for one month. But they say other work shows the impact to be ‘much higher’ months after the work.

They say this means ‘greater consideration’ should have been given to looking at how much traffic would build up as a result of engineering for the rail project.

Both authorities note work in Stratton Audley, north of Bicester, no longer needs heavy goods vehicles to run between the A4421 and the Launton compound, where work is currently taking place.

But they argue the need for light goods vehicles to use that route still means residents will be ‘noticeably’ affected.

In documents, they state: “There does not appear to be a justification as to why this traffic cannot also use the haul route adjacent to the railways between the main Bicester compound and the Launton compound.”

They say there is ‘insufficient width for them to pass without overrunning verges.’

In other concerns, the councils say they are ‘concerned at the impact of lengthy, albeit temporary, closure of footpaths without…diversions’.

It continues: “We had requested some form of temporary provision at the Grange Farm (Launton) crossing and are disappointed to see nothing is proposed.”

The work is included in Phase 2 of the Western section of the project, which is set to open to passengers in 2023. Phase 1 work introduced Chiltern Railways services from Oxford to London Marylebone via Bicester Village and opened to the public in December 2016.

While Mr Hudspeth and Mr Wood said they are broadly supportive of the ‘crucial’ work to boost the project, ‘issues raised [must be] resolved’.

It says Government work does not show Phase 2 ‘achieves a net gain for biodiversity’ that they would expect from a development of this scale and that they say has been promoted by East West Rail since its inception.

Other work as part of Phase 3 of the project will link Milton Keynes and Aylesbury. That is due to open in 2024.

The East West Rail project has been backed significantly by the county council, not least by its former late deputy leader, Rodney Rose.

But the Transport & Works Act Order must be given the go-ahead by the transport secretary, probably during February and March next year.

In reality, it is likely this is a glitch in what should be a relatively smooth process.

As council papers note: “Strategically, the case and need for East West Rail has never been more important, as it is an essential infrastructure element of the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge corridor as well as supporting the wider growth and connectivity agenda in Oxfordshire and across England’s Economic Heartland.”

County councillors will be asked to approve the measures, drawn up by the council’s director for planning and place, Susan Halliwell, next Tuesday. Cherwell councillors will be asked later.

The same document notes: “Despite working closely with the East West Rail Alliance, led by Network Rail which is promoting the scheme and the Order, it has not yet been possible to demonstrate that these concerns can be overcome.

“It is therefore proposed that the [county] council’s ‘holding objection’ becomes a formal objection on both highways/transport and ecology grounds.”

Council officers have said they will ‘advise’ councillors as and when they are given more news, probably after Christmas.

The council, along with Network Rail and the Department for Transport, are likely to be hopeful the the work is a mere hiccup rather than a major problem for the project.

So far the work on East West Rail has been widely celebrated. Chiltern Railways, which runs the service between Oxford and London via Bicester Village, said the rail market between the two stops had grown by 18 per cent in the first six months that it operated.