Oxford City Council has awarded an Infrastructure Place Study contract for the new Cowley Branch Line to SLC Rail.

The Infrastructure Place Study, led by SLC Rail, will help to identify any additional infrastructure place needs to ensure that the rail scheme is fully integrated with existing communities,  maximising options to improve local movement and connectivity. This work will happen in parallel with the development of the finance and funding strategy that will support the project’s Full Business Case.

The SLC Rail commission is part of a wider £4.5million package of work aiming to reopen the Cowley Branch Line to passengers, supported by Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council and major local landowners.

The line is currently only used 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).

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 closely with Network Rail who are currently developing the engineering design for the rail infrastructure and core station solutions, and producing the Full Business Case, drawing upon previous development work. The two work streams will work closely together in order to create the most compelling funding asks to Government and other potential funders during 2024.

Together the SLC Rail and Network Rail work packages 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.”

Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “I am delighted that we’ve reached this exciting stage in our proposals to facilitate reopening the Cowley Branch Line to passengers. A passenger service on this line would allow people to get from Blackbird Leys to the city centre in just over 10 minutes. This would really improve the city’s public transport options, increasing overall capacity locally, reducing congestion on our roads and contributing to a better rail network regionally. While Network Rail is already working on the designs for the two proposed stations, this new commission will specifically look at bridges and paths to ensure that the new stations are accessible to the surrounding residential and commercial areas and provide new links across the existing line. We’re looking forward to working with SLC Rail, 5th Studio, Transition by Design, Anthony Collins, and all stakeholders so that the train line can deliver maximum benefits for local communities and businesses.”