WORK affecting thousands of Bicester residents using a busy level crossing must be done now to stop key rail works becoming an ‘absolute nightmare’, councillors have urged.

Worries over the second phase of the East West Rail project will be sent to the transport secretary Chris Grayling after they were supported unanimously by Oxfordshire county councillors this week.

A central concern is that motorists will be held up at London Road crossing for up to 45 minutes every hour once East West Rail services begin.

Bicester town councillor Michael Waine said he had been met with a ‘brick wall’ when asking for more information from East West Rail over a possible bridge over the crossing – which could cost £44m – or a £65m tunnel.

He said officers had argued it was beyond the scope of the project's 'Phase 2', which involves work from Bicester to Bedford.

Mr Waine said: “Bicester is expanding fast, especially to the south of the crossing, and London Road is be the only viable route into the town. Currently the ‘barrier-down’ times are causing traffic to back-up into the town centre and out to the A41. Phase 2 will significantly add to this.

“Now is the time for the rail authorities and Government to take ownership of what is their issue.”

The planned Phase 1 of the work ran from Oxford to Bicester Village station – but the second phase runs from just north of the level crossing at London Road.

Mr Waine added: “In fact it is conveniently less than a millimetre outside their scheme.”

Yvonne Constance, the council’s cabinet member for environment, said that while East West Rail’s progress was ‘vital’, all impacts needed to be ‘fully understood and fully presented’.

She said authorities had still not given enough details to indicate how wildlife would be affected by the rail project. The council said it should bring benefits, but these have still not been revealed.

Carole Hetherington, chairman of the Langford Village Community Association, said: “It is something that needs to get started.

“If we do not get a solution imminently, it is going to cut us off and make getting into Bicester more difficult. This is an area that is expanding and it is already hard to get into the centre of town.

“It’s only going to get worse once the high-speed trains start coming through and the barrier is down more.

“The waits are going to get so long, the railway may close it altogether.

“There is not the capacity on the other roads to cope with the 5,500 people who live here. It is going to be an absolute nightmare.”

Dan Sames, who represents Otmoor on the county council, said: “When you think this will affect about 6,000, and 8,000 who will be cut off to the main route into town, it is ridiculous.

"And then another 3,000 to 4,000 houses are being built on that side of town.

“It’s great the Government has factored in £1bn for [East West Rail]; it also needs to factor in the millions it will cost to solve this problem.”

Phase 2 work is expected to be completed in 2023. Phase 1 work introduced trains, operated by Chiltern Railways, from Oxford to London Marylebone via Bicester Village. That opened in December 2016.

Meanwhile, Ian Hudspeth, the leader of the county council, said he jointly owns a flat close to the crossing with his daughter and that it was critical to help residents affected by delays around London Road.

He said: “Every time the barrier comes down I get a text (from his daughter): ‘can you sort this out?’”