COUNCILLORS rejected calls to back a Witney to Oxford railway, despite claims it could become the country's 'best used' route.

A motion urging West Oxfordshire District Council to ask the county council to consider including a rail line in the next phase of Oxfordshire's transport plan fell by 16 votes to 25 at last Wednesday's full council meeting.

Reinstating a railway through West Oxfordshire has long been mooted as an answer to the district's transport woes, with up to 33,000 cars using the A40 every day.

Read also: 'Radical' rail route could fix district's transport woes

An Eynsham park-and-ride is part of £180m of planned upgrades designed to ease traffic on the road, but the Liberal Democrat councillors who proposed the motion, Dan Levy and Jake Acock, argued only a rail line would fix the issue.

Mr Levy, of Eynsham and Cassington, told the meeting: “The number one thing people speak to me about is the state of transport in the district.

“It will be expensive and take a long time to put together, but that’s absolutely no reason not to push for something that would make a big difference.

“It would probably become the best used and most profitable line in this country.”

The motion also called for West Oxfordshire residents to be consulted on their views on a railway.

Read also: Application submitted for Eynsham park and ride

Shipton and Ascott Under Wychwood councillor, Mr Acock, said: “We, as elected representatives, have a collective duty to finally explore a new radical solution to the problem of the A40.

“The first stage of understanding how to fix the A40 lies in the heart of asking the people of West Oxfordshire what they really want.”

The Local Transport Plan 4 was agreed by Oxfordshire County Council in September 2015 and updated in 2016 to emphasise air quality and walking and cycling provision.

In 2015, the county council proposed a conceptual Witney to Oxford rail route costing an estimated £285m, but one year later revealed concerns about its commercial viability.

Read also: Campaign group wants park and ride at Witney, not Eynsham

The route, running from south of Ducklington roundabout and joining the Cotswold Line at Yarnton, was supported by 51 per cent of respondents in a 2015 consultation.

In January, the Witney Oxford Transport Group (WOT) proposed a new line running from Hanborough to Carterton, via Eynsham and Ducklington. The group previously said this would help deliver the 15,950 houses promised in the district's local plan up to 2031.

WOT officer, Maurizio Fantato, said he was 'disappointed' Wednesday's motion did not pass, despite backing from Labour councillors.

Read also: Campaigners' call to prioritise rail

But several Conservatives expressed fears, including Ted Fenton, of Bampton and Clanfield, who called the railway '19th century technology'.

He pressed for an 'innovative' solution, adding: “The problem with cars is they’re convenient - we need to create more hubs.”

Deputy council leader, Toby Morris, argued the A40 plans would make 'significant improvements' and revealed his concerns about the reality of a rail line.

He said: “I fear a train line would turn this beautiful part of the country into a place for London commuters.”

Council leader, James Mills, added: “Can you imagine the pressure it would put on the housing market if we went about this rail route?”

The county council submitted an application for the new park-and-ride last month and work could begin next spring if all goes to plan.