TRANSPORT Secretary Patrick McLoughlin launched the first major work on the new rail link between Oxford and London Marylebone yesterday.

Preliminary work started last August at Gavray Drive to build a new link between Bicester Town and Bicester North stations which will eventually open up a second London route for Oxford commuters.

Trees have been cleared and now the ground is ready for work to start on the new one kilometre section of track.

Mr McLoughlin said of the link: “I think it will be absolutely vitally important for people in Oxfordshire. It represents over £300m investment, and with new stations opening it will mean better connections for everyone concerned. It gives more options to commuters.”

The area where the new track will be built is seven metres below the Chiltern Mainline. But over the next five months the ground will be built up with layers of earth so it is level with the line.

Banbury Cake:

Patrick McLoughlin with Rob Brighouse, managing director of Chiltern Railways

Chiltern Railways’ managing director Rob Brighouse said work to raise the track was “pretty standard engineering”.

He said: “This is very exciting. Next year, in September, we will be operating the first rail service between Oxford Parkway and London. The key impact will be taking traffic off the road.”

He said he expected up to 3,000 people will use the new service with 1,000 of them travelling at peak times, removing hundreds of cars from the county’s roads.

Oxford Parkway, at Water Eaton, near Kidlington, will have an 800-space car park.

The Oxford to Bicester link closed last month and the new line will open in two phases. First, Bicester to Oxford Parkway next autumn, then the Oxford/Bicester/ London Marylebone link in spring 2016.

The London Road crossing will be closed from Monday, March 24, to Saturday, March 29, for a 20m section of track to be laid.