Inspector: Oxford rail link plans 'pose risk to bats'

Plans to improve railway links between Oxford and London's Marylebone station have been rejected by a planning inspector because the works would pose a risk to bats.

The inspector recommended that the Chiltern Railways order - which would involve constructing a new railway line to connect the Oxford-Bicester line to the Bicester-London line - should not be made because of bat roosts in Wolvercote Tunnel in Oxford.

The inspector concluded that the tunnel was used for "swarming, commuting, foraging and a temporary roost site" and that the proposed scheme in the tunnel would "change conditions in the tunnel" because of works to lower the floor and relay the tracks.

He also said that, following the work, more trains would pass through the tunnel at higher speeds and that the scheme, without mitgation, would be likely to "damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place used by bats".

But the inspector said that Chiltern Railways proposed mitigation measure "in the form of a lighting installation to sweep the tunnel clear of flying bats before each train arrived was an innovative one".

However, he added that there was no evidence that the measure had been used successfully elsewhere.

The Department for Transport said the secretary of state would be "minded to make the order and give the planning direction" if Chiltern Railways was to introduce appropriate mitigation measures.

The inspector noted in his report that there was a strong need to increase rail capacity in the Oxford to London corridor as overcrowding on peak trains was common.

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