A proposed new Oxford to London train route is threatening the future of a riding school business.

Chiltern Railways’ £260m Project Evergreen 3 would upgrade a stretch of track that runs four slow freight trains per day to carry four trains an hour, at speeds of up to 100mph.

The Offord family set up Wendlebury Gate, near Bicester, 22 years ago. Their land borders the line and trains would run 270m from the riding school.

John Offord said: “Horses may be spooked by the noise [of the trains passing], or affected by other horses spooking. The double whammy is dangerous.”

And the sound of passing trains would also make lessons unviable, said Mr Offord.

He said a report, which he commissioned, into the effect on horses of the sudden noise of a fast-moving train, implies speech would be unintelligible for 25sec every 15min, as trains pass.

Health and safety consultant Peter Brewster of Harris & Porter produced the report based on an acoustic survey.

His report concludes the trains could cause one or two serious or fatal injuries to riders at Wendlebury Gate per year.

“The local authority has told me we will not be able to renew our licence on these grounds,” added Mr Offord.

A public inquiry started on 2 November, after 200 people objected to the scheme.

Work is due to start next year.

Mr Offord asked Chiltern Railways to provide noise insulation but was told the “noise would not cause problems for horses”.

The railway company said: “Only six locations [along the track] are likely to qualify for statutory noise insulation.”

But it said it would also consider noise mitigation measures at other locations where the impact is lower.

Nick Cottam of Environmental Resources Management, who has been assessing the impact of train noise said: “Chiltern has agreed to erect noise barriers along parts of the route and these will be decided if the go-ahead is given at the inquiry.”

This article was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound, 11 November ’10