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Author Topic: How you'd reopen a railway to Witney  (Read 226 times)
Richard Fairhurst
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« on: March 07, 2020, 06:42:29 pm »

It looks like the old Oxford-Witney railway is going to be an election issue here in West Oxfordshire - the Lib Dems are making it one of their major campaign topics. So I thought I'd have a look at how feasible reopening something broadly along the old alignment would be.

It starts off pretty simple at Yarnton. The trackbed is still there and unobstructed, passing through the Cassington Quarry site. There's even an underbridge beneath the A40 that could be reused (it would mean a longer journey for quarry traffic, turning at either Peartree or Eynsham roundabout, but that's not a big deal). Map:



Eynsham is more difficult, because the B4449 (southern bypass) was built on the trackbed. There's room to the north of it, as long as you steer clear of Eynsham Abbey, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Obviously level crossings are pretty much verboten these days, so you'd need to bridge the railway. This would mean splitting the roundabout by the Siemens works into two, one north of the bridge, one south, each at sufficient distance from the bridge to ensure sightlines.

You then encounter Station Road. I think it'd be simplest just to stop this up on either side, with a pedestrian/cycle bridge as part of the station. Put the car parking on the south side to minimise the impact of traffic on Eynsham residents.



We're then out into open countryside again with no obstructions. South Leigh originally had a level crossing, which wouldn't fly these days. So realign the route to the south, with just one bridge needed, and minimal impact on properties.

At Tar Lane (the minor road from the Cogges part of Witney to Stanton Harcourt), again, you could just stop it up - there isn't enough through traffic to merit a full bridge. Perhaps put a pedestrian and cycle bridge in to make a very enjoyable, largely traffic-free greenway.



And then there's Witney. The old line into the town has been built on, and the A40 embankment obstructs it. So just stay south of the A40, I think. Put a Park & Ride-type station at Ducklington, right by the A40 junction. It's around 1300m walk/cycle to Church Green, obviously less to estates such as Thorney Leys.



I haven't looked at reinstating the old route on to Carterton because it'd be pointless - the original route didn't actually go to Carterton, but ran south of Brize Norton village, and the air base has since extended over it. So you'd want a new alignment if you were to continue to Carterton, probably going south of Curbridge and then north of Brize.

Likely to happen? I doubt it, sadly. But it would be a much more sustainable answer to West Oxfordshire's traffic problems than dualling the A40 could ever be.
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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2020, 07:36:34 pm »

I don't think there is an easier closed and lifted trackbed branch to reinstate, certainly in this part of the country. If I recall correctly, West Oxfordshire Council went against rebuilding the railway through fear of outsiders spoiling there delightful world.
Even if it was a local train to Oxford or Didcot (Cowley in the future?) I could see this being a very popular railway. Could even be somewhere for those fast Oxford terminators from London to go. I despair at how slow attitudes to public transport change but these are changing times, and anything seems possible with climate at the top of the agenda.
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ellendune
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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2020, 09:10:09 pm »

Wasn't there a suggestion of a completely new alignment from Handborough?
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Richard Fairhurst
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« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2020, 07:12:45 pm »

There was, but it seems like a non-starter to me. Hanborough-Witney has a significant hill whereas Yarnton-Eynsham-Witney is flat following the Thames and Windrush valleys. You'd also be missing out Eynsham and terminating further from the centre of Witney.
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