Having considered the opportunities near Cambridge represented by the Varsity Line it is necessary to look at Oxford – the other end of the Cambridge-MK-Oxford Arc.
Oxfordshire has been struggling with appropriate l;ocations within and beyond its Green Belt. The number of big brownfield airbases are much lowers than Cambridgeshire and those that exist are not always in good places. Landscape and flood risk constraints around most of Oxford are severe – which would make you think expansion of the least constrained areas would be easier – but it isnt as Oxford is severely underbounded.
On the restored link to Bicester which the Varsity Line will pass through Bicester itself of course is the biggest opportunity. The only other station between is Islip, but flooding constraints mean the scale of development suitable here is limited.
The big opportunity lies through restoration of the Wycombe line – the first line to reach Oxford – which originally ran through Cowley to Princes Risborough and Wycombe and Maidenhead.
A number of positive opportunities come together
- Network Rail is considering restoring services on teh Cowley Branch which serves Oxford Business Park and The Mini Factory
- With Cross Rail coming to Maidenhead Wycombe council is studying restoring a service to Bourne End – a major growth area.
So why not look at restoring the whole line which would link up several major towns west of London.
Indeed it offers potential for major expansion at Princes Risborough – where development stops dead at the Station, as well as a new Garden City beyond the Green Belt north of Junction 7 around restored station at Tidlington – not a conservation village and not constrained by flooding until you get to the Thames Flood Plane. This to me makes much more sense than the proposal for a new town put forward by landowners south of Junction 7 which would be very car orientated. There is about 2 km of developable area between the A418 and the A429 and developed to Central Oxford type densities could house around 50,000 people.
Thame could also get a station in the town though it is already proposed for major extension in its neighbourhood plan.
Wheatly is also being considered for extension though it is in the Green Belt.