THE threat of bats in a railway tunnel near Wolvercote holding up a new Rail service from Oxford to London Marylebone looks to have been lifted.

Chiltern Railways and Natural England have told the Government they are close to solving the bat problem to get the £130m scheme back on track.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening last month revealed the risk to bats and great crested newts presented a major obstacle to Evergreen 3’s scheme to create a fast Oxford-Bicester-London service.

Chiltern Railways and Natural England were given until today to set out measures to resolve the problem, that had resulted in the scheme being denied approval by a planning inspector.

The rail company and environment group told the Oxford Mail they had met the deadline with new proposals submitted to the Government, although the details have not been made public.

Natural England spokesman Melissa Gill said: “Natural England met with Chiltern Railways and agreed a way forward in respect of the outstanding issues surrounding bats in the tunnel.

“We will continue to work closely with Chiltern Railways to assist them in addressing these matters in their revised application. We have confirmed to the Department for Transport that in principle there is a good prospect of a licence being granted if outstanding issues are dealt with in the way that we agreed, should the Department for Transport issue the transport works order.”

News that the planning inspector had withheld approval from the massive scheme came as a blow to commuters who had been looking forward to a new service within three years.

The inspector said the bats used the tunnel for roosts and foraging.

And he warned more trains travelling at higher speed would put bats at risk and make the tunnel unusable for them.