East West Rail to pursue DBFM deal

East West Rail chairman Rob Brighouse has revealed the client body will pursue a design build, finance and maintain (DBFM) contract for the proposed Oxford-to-Cambridge line.

Mr Brighouse told delegates at Day One of the CN Summit that he was “expecting the chancellor to announce formally” the formation of the East West Rail Corporation to deliver the new line as part of the Budget.

He said the announcement will “enable us to structure a DBFM contract and work with you in the industry to get that right”.

Mr Brighouse, a non-executive director of Network Rail, also raised the possibility of including operation of the line in the contract.

He said: “I’ve said DBFM, but do we add an ‘O’ to that and do we have one contract that includes operations as well as the construction and maintenance?”

He added: “We want real engagement with the supply chain – tiers one and two – to discuss how we’re going to deliver this in a way that is most cost-effective.”

On the funding of East West Rail, which is understood to be worth up to £3bn, Mr Brighouse said the client “must get beneficiaries to pay”, referring to landowners in areas served by the proposed line who could see land values rise significantly if approval is secured.

He suggested a development corporation could capture some of the value, as has been done by Transport for London, but that it would be “somewhat more complex when you’re trying to build a railway across [multiple] county boundaries”.

Another suggested option was getting landowners to effectively bid for stations in their areas by offering to contribute to the cost of the line.

Mr Brighouse said that if East West Rail could capture 20 per cent of the uplift on 100,000 lots of land along the route with a value of £100,000 each, then that would “virtually pay for our railway”.

The East West line would run from Oxford to Cambridge with the aim of improving services in the surrounding corridor.

The route will go along currently open lines, brownfield sites along old rail corridors, and new sections on greenfield sites.

Responsibility for the project was handed to East West Rail – which is separate to Network Rail – by transport secretary Chris Grayling last December.