‘New rail link will give shops a boost,’ says business leader

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AYLESBURY has an opportunity to attract more shoppers, according to business leaders who do not believe the town will lose out when a new 35-minute train link to Milton Keynes opens in 2017.

The chairman of Bucks Business First, Stuart Jones, does not believe that existing shoppers will abandon the town – instead he expects record numbers to visit Aylesbury and is urging firms to think about how they will make the most of the opportunity.

Where East West Rail will go

Where East West Rail will go

Last week the chancellor revealed the coalition will fund the £270 million East-West rail project, restoring a disused line from Oxford to Bedford – which will stop in Bicester, a new station in Winslow, and existing stations in Bletchley and Milton Keynes.

From Winslow there will be a spur line down to Aylesbury Parkway and Aylesbury town station – giving Vale shoppers easy access to Milton Keynes and Oxford.

Mr Jones said: “It will make access to Aylesbury easier by rail and if the local business offer and shopping is good that will bring people to the town.”

He believes firms in Aylesbury should be looking at how they can promote themselves to new places along the line – which will eventually be linked to Cambridge, Ispwich and Norfolk.

“They will need to think about how the line could affect their business and how they are going to market themselves effectively.

“Of all the infrastructure projects that have been suggested by the coalition this is the one that makes the most sense to the region.

“East-West rail is a sensible idea, it negates the need to travel in and out of London for some places and improves connectivity to the east and west which has been missing from this area for some time.”

Project manager Patrick O’Sullivan said: “I would have thought people in Aylesbury would want to go to Milton Keynes and vice versa, I think that both places will benefit equally.

“The whole point of the rail line is to improve connectivity between the towns and cities along the route.”

Chris Wright, chairman of the Oxon and Bucks Rail Action Committee, who has campaigned for East-West Rail for 25 years, said: “Remember the trains will go two ways. Aylesbury has come on an awful lot in the last four or five years, particularly with the theatre opening and all the other stuff planned. I think it will attract a lot more people to Aylesbury.

“At the moment people in Aylesbury may go to Watford to have a day out in a different town.

“It is up to the towns along the East-West line to market themselves and promote themselves.

Unlike the proposed 22-metre wide HS2 line through protected countryside, the East-West tracks will be four-feet-eight-and-a-half-inches wide and are already laid.