DESPITE councillors’ efforts to push for a solution to delays at a level crossing on a busy Bicester road, the Government does not feel it is necessary and has given the green light to phase two of East West Rail works.

Bicester’s London Road level crossing has been a topic of debate for years with drivers complaining about the length of barrier down time causing them delays.

Once phase two of East West Rail works is complete, services to Bicester, Oxford Parkway and Oxford will double with services running every 15 minutes.

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This means barrier-down time at the London Road crossing could rise from 14 minutes to up to 45 minutes each hour.

In 2018, Bicester’s county councillors proposed a bridge or tunnel for traffic at the crossing to stop drivers being held up for so long.

But the Secretary for Transport, Grant Shapps, announced on Tuesday that there is ‘insufficient evidence’ for an alternative crossing to replace it.

In his report he states: “…The Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that to introduce a solution to resolve this concern would result in undue delays and costs to the Scheme and as such agrees with the Inspector that a solution should not form part of the Order.

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“…Evidence provided by NR (Network Rail) has demonstrated that the adverse impact as a result of the barrier down after the proposed mitigation would be insufficient to outweigh the overall benefits that the scheme would provide to roads in the area.”

There will however be changes in signalling to help reduce barrier down time.

Carole Hetherington, chairman of Langford Village Community Association (LVCA) - a community action group - said she is ‘disappointed’ that a better solution to the issues at London Road is not being found.

She said: “I am bitterly disappointed that, having demonstrated that the expert figures for the impact the projected downtime of the crossing were not accurate, the Inquiry has completely ignored this.

"We are told there is a solution, we have not seen what this is and there appears to be no progress in obtaining any funding despite being told someone at Cherwell District Council has the specific job to gain the funding."

The first phase of East West Rail saw the creation of the Western section which operates services between Oxford and Bicester and was completed in December 2016.

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Phase two is part of the wider East West Rail proposal to connect Cambridge to Oxford and involves track and signalling upgrades between Bicester, Bedford, Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.

As part of the work, the level crossing at Charbridge Lane in Bicester will be replaced with a bridge over the railway.

County councillor John Howson said: “Obviously, the new service is good for travellers and will further strengthen Bicester Village as a key retail centre.

“However, Bicester residents will pay the price with more delays and congestion while the level crossing remains in operation. House prices may be affected, and the town centre further diminished as a shopping area.

“With the new rail line being so many years in the planning, ignoring this bottleneck was a disaster waiting to happen and residents may express their views in the next set of local elections.

“I cannot agree with the Secretary's assessment and am surprised that he has reached that view.”

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Asked whether Oxfordshire County Council agrees with the Government's position not to create an alternative crossing at London Road, a spokesperson for the council said: "Building on previous assessments, Oxfordshire County Council has agreed a scope of work with partners to review options for interventions that would allow for continued transport access to Bicester Town Centre, should additional EWR services to those included in Phase 2 of the scheme come forward (for example once the central part of the scheme between Bedford and Cambridge is in place).

"This is the first stage in developing a business case for any interventions/ improvements."