Planners assess case for rail line extension between Bedford and Cambridge

Aug 26, 2014

The East West Rail Consortium says extending the section between Bedford and Oxford – due to open in 2019 – east to Cambridge would deliver substantial economic benefits. Its report, following a study by transport specialist Atkins Consultants, is the first step towards developing an outline business case for the line.

Strategic planners at Network Rail, with the EWR Consortium and Department of Transport, will now examine the engineering, operational and planning feasibility and cost of several potential routes.

The target is to submit a robust and convincing business to government in 2016 to include the scheme, subject to funding availability, in the rail industry 2019-24 investment plans.

Graham Botham, principal strategic planner at Network Rail, said: “We welcome the exciting opportunity to unlock the economic growth of the region though improving rail services.”

The EWRC report has been welcomed by Central Bedfordshire Council, which has contributed £5.1 million to support the reopening of the western section. Cllr Nigel Young said reopening the central section would bring “real benefit” to the area, particularly Sandy and Biggleswade and the Wixams near Bedford. “As well as encouraging more people to take the train, it will offer potential growth to the area and could lead to the release of significant commercial land opportunities,” he added.

The former line between Bedford and Cambridge has been dismantled, the land sold and sections used for other purposes, including housing. Chair of the EWR Central Section steering group Bob Menzies said: “This means that we are looking at constructing a brand new stretch of railway.” 

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