A COMPLEX project aiming to ease congestion in Bicester has hit its halfway mark.

The first phase of the Howes Lane realignment project is complete.

The project, funded by Homes England and the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal, is designed to ease increasing traffic between Howes Lane and Bucknell Road, as housing and economic development continues in and around Bicester.

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The scheme will connect areas of the town, which were previously cut off from each other by the railway line, and help open up the Eco-Town in north west Bicester, which will see the creation of up to 6,000 new homes and new community and recreational facilities.

The first phase of work saw a bridge under the railway installed last year to accommodate the planned realigned Howes Lane, and a separate underpass through the railway embankment which will be used by pedestrians and cyclists.

Bicester Advertiser: Underpass project in Bicester. Pic by Oxfordshire County Council

A brief railway closure over the Easter period allowed safe insertion of the two structures by teams from Oxfordshire County Council, Cherwell District Council and Network Rail.

Around 21,000 tonnes of earth was moved to make way for the underpasses and the teams removed and replaced 400 metres of railway track, before driving them under the Marylebone/Aynho line with a huge transporter.

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The bridges were built off-site between October 2020 and March 2021.

Now, Oxfordshire County Council is working on the second phase of the project which involves the realignment of Howes Lane.

Bicester Advertiser: Bicester underbridge work

A county council spokesperson said: “The county council has developed the preliminary design for the second phase which includes the realigned road through the North West Bicester housing development.

"Cherwell District Council and Oxfordshire County Council are working with developers to see how the realigned road can be funded and delivered alongside new housing.”

The scheme has been helped with £23.5 million of funds from the £150 million Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal.

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Although the underpasses are complete, they are not yet in use as the realignment of Howes Lane is yet to take place.

The county council says the structures will also first need to be dedicated for public use as they sit on private land.

Robert Jolley, assistant director for growth and economy at Cherwell District Council, previously said it was a 'key project' for the development of Bicester Garden Town and an 'extraordinary example of multi-agency work bringing significant key players together with a clear, common purpose'.

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