Bicester Traffic Action Group (BicesterTAG) have recently become aware that the total number of trains passing through Bicester on the new East West Rail link will exceed the original estimate of nine by four making it a total of thirteen.

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A freight train crossing London Road level crossing
A freight train crossing London Road level crossing

The four additional trains per hour will comprise two freight trains and two passenger.  The information was reported in the latest edition of 'Rail Magazine' (Edition 780, 5-18 August 2015).  Part of the article can be downloaded here.


The higher figure does not mean that there will be thirteen trains passing through Bicester Town station from the opening of the East West Rail line in 2019, it means that this is the increment possible based on the line capacity.  Yet it is vital to remember that rail freight has increased by 40% in tonnage and from 8%-12% as market share (1993-2012, Source: RFG).  Freight capacity on existing railways is also highly congested.  Consequently it is likely that the new capacity will be quickly exploited by train operators. 


The East West Rail link is being built to sustain a capacity of 13 train services per hour in total.
Comparing the initial train frequencies with the future 'incremental' services the line will have capacity for.


Whilst the all the passenger trains passing through London Road will be capable of a maximum of 100mph they will be preparing to stop at or accelerating away from Bicester Town station so will be traveling slower.  The freight trains will not stop but only have maximum speeds of between 60 and 75mph however as the line is curved at this point, they travel at lower speeds.


What does this mean for bicester?

To date we have worked on estimates that if London Road level crossing were to close nine times per hour, for three minutes each closure then the crossing would be closed for 27 minutes per hour, assuming equally spaced trains.  Yet with thirteen services this number increases to 39 minutes each and every hour.  That means for 65% of each hour, residents and business of Bicester will not be able to use London Road level crossing and will encounter the resulting congestion.


Worse still, that assumes that the trains all run evenly spaced.  This is very unlikely.  The probable situation will be that one train passes and another is due shortly so the barriers will remain closed (Network Rail have very detailed rules on these matters).  This means that London Road's crossing gates may be closed for up to 45 minutes each and every hour or 75% of the time.


  • From 2019, a minimum of 27 minutes every hour;
  • With a potential of 39 minutes every hour, assuming perfect spacing of trains;
  • However a likely closing of 45 minutes every hour to accommodate actual train spacing.
  • This assumes that Network Rail don't simply close the crossing without consultation on safety grounds as they have the legal power to do.
A worst case scenario closure is 45 minutes EVERY hour
Closed for 75% of EVERY hour

Closing London Road level crossing for anywhere between a minimum of 27 and 45 minutes will have a detrimental effect on Bicester.  London Road is a key transport link not only for inter-town traffic and pedestrians but also traffic to and from the south.


Closing this essential link for between 45% and 75% of every hour is going to have many consequences, including;

  • Traffic congestion building up back to Market Square and the Rodney House roundabout
  • Increased journey times for businesses and bus services
  • Fewer shoppers visiting Pioneer Square, Sainburys etc.
  • Increase congestion on Queens Avenue and the A41 roundabout
  • Read more about the issues here in 'Bicester 2019: Carmageddon'



You do not need to be a Traffic Planning Expert or a Professor of Human Psychology to realise that closing a key road through our rapidly growing town is going to create congestion.  So to bring it home here is a little scenario we hope will never come to fruition;


It is 2021 in Bicester.  Alfie is 19 and has grown up in Bicester all his life.  He has just bought himself a new Ford Focus GT3.  He worked long and hard for this car and anyone who knows him knows that his car is his pride and joy particularly his girlfriend Carri who wishes he would shut up about it for at least 5 minutes.

Alfie has just picked up Carri who lives on the new estate south of Langford where 2,000 new homes are being built.  They're going to see a movie.  They're late, Alfie is always late.  Well he was waxing his car until 30 minutes ago. 

Worse still, they're stuck in traffic.  They've been queuing to get through the level crossing on London Road.  They have 5 minutes to get to cinema before the film starts.  Alfie knows Carri will be cross if they miss it, she's always on at him about being late.

Oh great Alfie thinks, the traffic starts moving again they're going to make it.  But before more than 20 cars have gone through the crossing lights start flashing again.  It's ok Alfie thinks, the traffic is moving fast we can make it.  The car in front is also going for it.  Cool Alfie thinks, glad he's not some loser.

But unfortunately Alfie and Carri will lose, for unknown to them, the traffic is about to stop suddenly because the frustrated driver of a car waiting to turn ahead unexpectedly pulls out into the traffic causing everyone behind to brake hard, including Alfie. 

Alfie Carri and his pampered car are now stuck on the level crossing as the barriers close. 

Then Driver Mattison comes around the corner driving the 1634 Immingham Docks to Toton container freight.  As soon as Eddie Mattison, driver of 23 years experience sees the situation he recognises that there is a car stuck on the crossing and presses his emergency brake.  Yet with 25 wagons, his train weighs well over 1,000 tonnes and has a theoretical stopping distance of 803 metres.  Eddie later discovered this information from the accident investigator's evidence.  Yet with a Ford Focus under the wheels of his Class 66 locomotive, the train stopped in 738.2 metres.

The accident inquiry also heard from Network Rail that they now planned to close this level crossing as their had been a number of near accidents at this site already.

As this is a theoretical scenario, we're going to let impatient Alfie and hapless Carri walk away from this one uninjured.  We're also going to avoid Driver Eddie Mattison being unable to return to work for six months and having on-going counseling due to this being the second no-fault fatality of his career.  Unfortunately real-life is not always so kind.

why are we in this situation?

  • Oxfordshire County Council have been part of the East West Rail Consortium since 1995. 
  • The other 37 level crossings on the East West route are to be replaced by alternative means or closed.  London Road Bicester is the only one not. 
  • Oxfordshire County Council have made a HUGE mistake by ignoring this problem for so long.
  • Oxfordshire County Council, their Leader, their Cabinet Member for the Environment and our local County Councillors are not taking the consequences of this problem seriously.

what's not happening?

Oxfordshire County Council is both a project sponsor of East West Rail and simultaneously has jurisdiction for all public highways within Oxfordshire.  Six months on from the date they said they would publish proposals they have not.  Their engineers have visited the site on numerous occasions and have considered several variants but they have not eluded to anyone what these maybe.  So what are the potential solutions;

  • Bridge - Simply building a bridge is unfeasible because the lead in ramps would stretch almost into Market Square and completely obliterate existing access roads as well as resident's views.
  • Tunnel - A tunnel we are told is also unfeasible for similar reasons and the fact that the water table in that area is very high.

Yet, Oxfordshire County Council have no budget for this project.  Despite being part of this project since 1995 and making provision to replace crossings elsewhere, Oxfordshire County Council seem to have made a HUGE mistake here.

Our Oxfordshire County Councillors had told us that the council was applying to Central Government for funds to manage this task however in this period of prolonged austerity, this solution seems less viable.  We are now hearing rumours (we stress that these are rumours but from someone who is considered knowledgeable of the situation) that no compulsory purchase will be permitted, meaning no funding is available.

So what is going to happen?

At the moment, Plan A is to allow the crossing to remain open.  Network Rail have already questioned this.  Remember that under the powers of the Railway Act they can close the crossing without consultation on safety grounds.

BicesterTAG very much fear that the 'Alfie and Carri' scenario above will force their hand and the crossing will close.  Terminating not only vehicle and but also pedestrian access as the bridge at Bicester Town station will not be accessible except to those who have purchased tickets to travel.

Shocked?  We are!


If you are a business owner, a Mum with children, a working person, a student or anyone else and you have been impacted by these issues, please add YOUR thoughts below in the comments section.  Only by recording your voice can we demonstrate to our politicians that these issues are relevant to the people and businesses of Bicester and the surrounding villages.  Thank you.

Write a comment

Comments: 7
  • #1

    Jan Harvey (Thursday, 13 August 2015 11:49)

    I appreciate the concerns re vehicles using the crossing and appreciate that if it is closed this will add time, additional mileage and additional congestion on other roads.
    My concern is for pedestrians and cyclists but primarily for pedestrians. Many young mums with prams and toddlers use this route to get to and from town. What alternative route could they take ? We are all encouraged to walk more but total closure of the crossing would significantly restrict this.

  • #2

    Hels (Tuesday, 18 August 2015 17:06)

    It is worrying but remember your using a senario for the barriers to be working when we already know occ can't afford to have them any more accidents will be rife
    Bicester is already destroyed too many housing sites, too much congestion and we are already getting a taste of the traffic

  • #3

    Terry Taylor (Tuesday, 18 August 2015 17:18)

    It is for Oxfordshire County Council to deal with this as a matter of urgency. That they have not is a disgrace.
    London Road is the only viable route into Bicester town centre. We have already seen this month, that the effect of closing London Road crossing is to create massive traffic problems on Launton Road, and to add to the already heavily congested A41, thanks to Oxfordshire County Council not providing proper traffic provision for the existing Bicester Village site.
    With the expansion of Bicester Village, AND the enlarged new Tesco and business park, AND the proposed new retail park, the options to get in and out of Bicester town centre will be none, leading to the death of an already under resourced town centre.
    We do not want more out of town developments. We do not want more traffic around the congested A41. We do not want the huge delays and queues on Launton Road.
    Keeping London Road open is vital to the prosperity of the town. Rather than providing large car parks for Bicester Town station (which no one will be able to even get to) and wasting time and money re-naming the station inappropriately, we need proper joined up thinking from those in positions of responsibility. Joined up thinking is not something that Oxfordshire County Council is renowned for. Proper joined up thinking that might consider re-routing London Road to create a bridge, not on the existing level crossing, but to the west side over the top of where the car park is being built, where there is plenty of room without ruining residents' outlooks. A small amount of compulsory purchase of office space would be all that is need needed.
    We do not want the Bicester that Oxfordshire County Council is trying to create. Oxfordshire County Council exists to work to provide what we the residents want, not what the planning department wants.

  • #4

    bj (Wednesday, 19 August 2015 00:01)

    This has been a long time coming. The 45 min road closure per hour was mentioned in the Bicester Advertiser sometime ago and also the possible closure of the crossing. Why do you think Bicester Village was not allowed access to it's car parks from London Road along time ago? Someone must have known but kept it very quiet until it was far too late to stop this happening.

  • #5

    David Budden (Wednesday, 19 August 2015 01:16)

    I walk to town a lot as I work in Oxford and live on new Langford which has the footpath to Bicester town at the end of my street. Walking to town to catch the bus each day takes 10 minutes however with the crossing closed for either 45 minutes or permanently could mean missing a bus. To walk to the new footbridge and then to town would add time to already long day.

    I support all the above valid comments made.

    Driving in and around Bicester would be impacted if the crossing was to close for 45minutrs each hour or completely as more hosing is built and Bicester is to grows loosing a main road is not an option.

    The Shell petrol station would not be viable to stay open as who would use it when it is at the end of a closed road. This is a busy business and is the used by lots of locals and passing trade.

    To encourage people to use the trains you need to be able to get to the station. With the delays and proposed closure commuters will either not use the station or park their cars on residential streets in Langford Village to avoid driving round town to the car park and paying any charges.

  • #6

    Adam smith (Wednesday, 19 August 2015 02:30)

    Urmmm why wouldn't Alfie just go the other way around the ring road, its almost the same distance and if the likelihood of the road being closed is so high, why risk is. Sounds like Alfie needs a satnav.

  • #7

    Brian Axe (Friday, 28 August 2015 10:40)

    I think we, together with other interested parties, including our MP., should prevail upon Network Rail to only license Chiltern Railways to run no up to 4 trains per hour through the London Road crossing until such time as the free flow of traffic along London Road has been established.