ROBERT Courts has explained his concerns about calls to resurrect a rail link between Witney and Oxford.

In a letter to a constituent, the Witney MP outlined an array of issues he takes with the frequently suggested solution to congestion on the A40.

Mr Courts, who said he was open to any and all potential solutions, also noted his support for people who encourage public transport.

The MP was responding to a letter penned by Nigel Pearce, of Eynsham Planning Improvement Campaign, and Eleanor Chance, of the Eynsham Society.

In their letter, the pair wrote: “Following the announcement of the reopening of the Oxford–Cambridge railway line, it is surely time to consider reopening an Oxford–Witney line, perhaps extending it to Carterton.

“We will not even need to build thousands of new houses to ‘fund’ it (as if that were the only way of doing so).

"The amount already set aside to be spent on the A40, including a bus lane and park and rude, is more than £200m, which is well on the way to paying for a new light railway."

They suggested that current solutions are not far-reaching or creative enough to efficiently tackle the problem.

Mr Courts, however, while not ruling out a railway as a possible solution, noted a number of challenges with pursuing the idea.

He said: “I am absolutely clear that A40 congestion is a blight to those who have to use the route to get to and from work, and that it is a drain on West Oxfordshire’s economy.

“However, we do need to be careful when considering whether a new train line, and corresponding train station in Witney, is the most cost-effective solution to the transport issues in West Oxfordshire."

Mr Courts noted that, while Witney did formerly have a railway, most of the old track has now been built on and the old station redeveloped.

He said that a new station would have to be found – and that central Witney is an unlikely location.

Mr Courts added: “It would take significant capital investment for the station to be opened and then sustained.

"Indeed, this was looked at in the late 1990s and a feasibility study was carried out.

“The result was that costs were prohibitive. The costs were well in excess of £100m and there were problems highlighted at Eynsham, South Leigh and Witney, where the line had been built on.”

Another issue, Mr Courts said, would be whether the scheme would bring about the desired impact.

He continued: “Such a railway line will only remove traffic if it is heading directly from Witney to Oxford – or a station en route.

"It would be unlikely to assist traffic that is going to, say, the science parks, Abingdon, or the A34 in either direction.”

Mr Courts concluded that he does not stand in ‘outright opposition to rail plans, adding: “We do need to consider very carefully whether such a major and expensive project would in fact provide the solution that we all need.”

He said he would be very interested in any cost-effective model.