Home Rail News East West Rail publishes alternative routes for Bedford to Cambridge

East West Rail publishes alternative routes for Bedford to Cambridge

The East West Railway Company has just released details of five alternative routes for a new railway between Bedford and Cambridge as part of the East West Rail development.

Reinstating a rail route between Oxford and Cambridge, and on to East Anglia, has been under development for a number of years. The Western Section – Oxford to Bedford – is well underway. Phase 1, a double-track upgrade between Oxford and Bicester Village, was completed in December 2016.

Phase 2, reinstating and upgrading the line between Bicester Village and Bedford, with additional improved routes from Oxford to Milton Keynes and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury, both via Bletchley which will get two extra platforms, will commence construction later this year. Services should commence in 2023.

The Eastern Section includes the services east of Cambridge through to East Anglia (Norwich/Ipswich) and the east coast ports. The route exists, but will need to be upgraded to meet the capacity and speed requirements of the new services.

The stumbling block for the whole plan is the central section. Following the closure of the original line in 1968, the route was not safeguarded and is now taken up by the Cambridge, guided busway, the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory, housing at several locations and National Cycle Route 51. So a new route is needed.

On 30 October 2018, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced £20 million of funding for the development of a strategic outline business case. As part of that, East West Railway is now inviting interested organisations to an engagement session in February.

It has also launched a public consultation on the route, and has come up with five alternatives for people to choose from.

ROUTE A: Bedford South – Sandy (re-located south) – Cambridge (via Bassingbourn)

East West Rail: Bedford to Cambridge option A

This option would support economic growth across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and deliver faster journeys, with an estimated Oxford to Cambridge journey time of 76 minutes.

However, there could be impacts on the National Trust’s Wimpole Hall tree avenue that would require mitigation. The route alsoruns close to the RSPB Nature Reserve, Sandy Warren Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Biggleswade Common, and Sandy station would need to be relocated.

Indicative upfront construction cost: £2.0 billion at 2015 prices.

ROUTE B: Bedford South – Sandy (re-located north)/Tempsford area / south of St Neots – Cambourne – Cambridge

East West Rail: Bedford to Cambridge option B

This alternative would also supports economic growth across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and result in an estimated Oxford to Cambridge journey time of 80 minutes.

Choosing this route might require Sandy station to be re-located (if EWR serves a new station slightly to the north of the existing station rather than in the broad area around Tempsford or to the south of St Neots) and it might duplicate the proposed Metro in providing public transport links between Cambourne and Cambridge.

Indicative upfront construction cost: £2.6 billion at 2015 prices.

ROUTE C: Bedford South – Tempsford area – Sandy – Cambridge (via Bassingbourn)

East West Rail: Bedford to Cambridge option C

Like Route B, this option would support economic growth across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and result in an estimated Oxford to Cambridge journey time of 80 minutes.

There could also be impacts on the Wimpole Hall avenue, the route is in close proximity to the RSPB Nature Reserve, Sandy Warren Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Biggleswade Common, and it would potentially need complex links with the East Coast main line.

Indicative upfront construction cost: £2.5 billion at 2015 prices.

ROUTE D: Bedford Midland – Tempsford area – Sandy – Cambridge (via Bassingbourn)

East West Rail: Bedford to Cambridge option D

As with the other options, this one supports economic growth across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. The estimated Oxford to Cambridge journey time would be 83 minutes but there would be direct connectivity to Bedford town centre

Once again, there could also be impacts on the Wimpole Hall avenue, the route is in close proximity to the RSPB Nature Reserve, Sandy Warren Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Biggleswade Common, and it would potentially need complex links with both the Midland and the East Coast main line.

Indicative upfront construction cost: £2.6 billion at 2015 prices.

ROUTE E: Bedford Midland – south of St Neots / Tempsford area – Cambourne – Cambridge

East West Rail: Bedford to Cambridge option E

In this instance, the estimated Oxford to Cambridge journey time would be 82 minutes but there would be direct connectivity to Bedford town centre and, as with the other options, it also supports economic growth across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

It might duplicate the proposed Metro in providing public transport links between Cambourne and Cambridge and require potentially complex links with the Midland main line. However, the Sandy station would not need relocation.

This is the most expensive option with an indicative upfront construction cost of  £3.4 billion at 2015 prices.

This public consultation on route options will run from 28 January to 11 March 2019.

East West Rail will then announce the preferred route option and will start to develop the designs in detail for a preferred route alignment. Before applying for planning consent to construct the railway, there will be a further, formal (statutory) stage of consultation, planned for 2021.

Nigel Wordsworth BSc(Hons) MCIJ
Nigel Wordsworth BSc(Hons) MCIJhttp://www.railengineer.co.uk
SPECIALIST AREAS Rolling stock, mechanical equipment, project reports, executive interviews Nigel Wordsworth graduated with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from Nottingham University, after which he joined the American aerospace and industrial fastener group SPS Technologies. After a short time at the research laboratories in Pennsylvania, USA, Nigel became responsible for applications engineering to industry in the UK and Western Europe. At this time he advised on various engineering projects, from Formula 1 to machine tools, including a particularly problematic area of bogie design for the HST. A move to the power generation and offshore oil supply sector followed as Nigel became director of Entwistle-Sandiacre, a subsidiary of the Australian-owned group Aurora plc. At the same time, Nigel spent ten years as a Technical Commissioner with the RAC Motor Sports Association, responsible for drafting and enforcing technical regulations for national and international motor racing series. Joining Rail Engineer in 2008, Nigel’s first assignment was a report on new three-dimensional mobile mapping and surveying equipment, swiftly followed by a look at vegetation control machinery. He continues to write on a variety of topics for most issues.

8 COMMENTS

  1. From Bedford to Cambridge.
    From Bedford to A1 black cat roundabout follow the existing A421
    From A1 black cat roundabout to Cambourne follow the new proposed A428 road route and the existing A428 from cambourne heading to a cambridge south station at Addenbrookes CUH biomedical campus.
    By following the new proposed A428 road route the land grab can take place at the same time and is minimal, and disruption to the countryside and noise pollution will be minimal by reducing the travel corridor.

    • Yes, now the preferred route for the Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet A428 upgrade is confirmed by the Highways Agency as route C, north of the existing A428, it makes a lot of sense to have the railway run next to it.

  2. The SSI, Wimpole and RSPB should all be protected.
    Stations should be as close as possible to centres of population to avoid excess car use. St Neots and Cambourne/Bourne airfield development should be serviced.

  3. Why not re-open the Bedford-Hitchin line? Closed in the early 1960’s, the route is largely untouched. There has been a significant increase in housing along the route, e.g. Cardington, Shefford, Lower Stondon. There is a new flyover for the Cambridge line at Hitchin.
    Of equal importance would be a rail lic between Stevenage and Luton. whose airport will be expanding to 30 million PPY in the near future.

  4. What would the costs be to use the existing Railway, already 25kva powered, to Hitchin and putting in a new curve to join the ECML up to Sandy, then the old formation to Bedford South and on to Bletchley and Oxford? It eradicates the RSPB and Wimpole Hall issues and gives additional service connections at Hitchin and Sandy to alleviate the E Mids / Thameslink line pressures at Bedford.??

  5. Another fairly intact route to consider Bedford to Hitchin and then the trains could use existing line through Royston to cambridge

  6. Why not connect at Sandy . Run North to Offord . Junction at Offord to run line parallel with the new A14, which serves the all the new development north and west of Cambribge. It also enables a connection to Cambridge North station and links to the lines feeding Norfolk and Suffolk via Ely Junction.

  7. Luton to Stevenage would have made good sense where it not for the diversion south from Bedford. At times the line would actually be heading back on itself in both directions south of Bedford. The obvious route that would have avoided the dog legs was squandered by Luton when it ignored sense and pushed for its controversial busway. Cambridge similarly used the obvious route direct into the City for part of their busway. The use of former railway solums can keep costs down significantly and councils that fail to protect them may find it a contributory factor in the event of a failure to proceed. A new railway between Luton and Stevenage would be far more problematic than one between Bedford and Sandy.

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