RAIL champions have hit out at Chris Grayling for not doing more for Oxfordshire in his new national rail strategy yesterday.

The Transport Strategy used his grand vision to make official the plans for reopening the 'varsity' line from Oxford to Cambridge in the 2020s.

However Vale of White Horse District Council leader Matt Barber was among those who said he could have used the opportunity to promote more rural regeneration.

Mr Barber, who has long called for the reopening of the old Wantage Road Station at Grove – closed during the 1960s Beeching cuts – said he was disappointed that while Mr Grayling announced plans to reopen lines across the county closed during that period, Wantage did not make the cut.

Banbury Cake: Wantage Road Station in March 1963

Wantage Road Station in March 1963

He said he would now be writing to the minister to 'highlight the opportunity of reopening Grove'.

He added: "Grove doesn't feature which is naturally disappointing but probably not surprising given where plans are.

"The Vale is working with Oxfordshire County Council to develop the business case and there are discussions going on behind the scenes to move this project forward."

Wantage MP Ed Vaizey, who has also called for a new Wantage branch, said he welcomed the rail strategy and would continue to campaign for re-opening Grove.

Oxford transport expert Hugh Jaeger, meanwhile, called on the Government to take the opportunity to consider reviving a rail link between Witney and Oxford.

That line, linking Oxford, Witney and Fairford, closed to passengers in 1965 following the recommendations of British Railways chairman Dr Richard Beeching.

But Mr Jaeger said a new station in Witney should be considered as part of the pledge to reopen branch lines which closed.

Banbury Cake: A 2-2-2 GWR single-wheeler enters Witney station in about 1912, with a train from Fairford to Oxford.

A 2-2-2 GWR single-wheeler enters Witney station in about 1912, with a train from Fairford to Oxford

Mr Jaeger, chairman of Bus Users UK’s Oxford branch and a former London Underground train driver, said investment in the railways would be preferable to dualling the A40 between Oxford and Eynsham, a proposal backed by the county council.

He added: "If you lay more asphalt cars will end up sitting on it, so the rail option between Witney and Oxford should be considered.

"You would need to reopen a station at Yarnton and increase capacity by dualling the track on the Cotswold line between Oxford and Hanborough."

He added: "Any new rail strategy from the Government is, of course, dependent on funding from the Chancellor Philip Hammond."

Mr Grayling also suggested yesterday that his department could look at breaking up train operator Great Western Railway, which runs trains along the Great Western Mainline from London to Wales and is set to become the UK's biggest in coming years.

The company yesterday said that it 'understood' the Department for Transport's desire to 'explore changes to the shape of the franchise'.

I went on: "At this stage, this is simply an option the DfT is exploring with stakeholders and no decisions have been taken, and even if a decision is taken to take the proposals forward, it would not actually take place until 2022 at the earliest."