UK: Oxford to Cambridge railway project promoter East West Railway Co has begun public consultation on five route options for the Bedford – Cambridge section of the future line.
While the Western Section between Oxford and Bedford will use upgraded and reinstated existing railway alignments, the Central Section between Bedford and Cambridge would require the construction of a new alignment.
Initial studies have identified five options. Three follow a broadly southern route through south Cambridgeshire via Bassingbourn, with two taking a broadly northern route via Cambourne. There are options for new stations at Cambourne, St Neots, Sandy, Tempsford and Bassingbourn. All five options approach Cambridge from the south, but two could approach from the north if evidence suggests this would be better.
Public consultation will run from January 28 to March 11, with information available online and at eight public events. ‘Bedford, Cambridge and the communities in between need the right kind of infrastructure to support them’, said EWRC Chief Executive Simon Blanchflower. ‘We are hoping that residents will give us feedback on these route options to help us understand more about the priorities of the people this line will serve.’
Following this non-statutory consultation, EWRC intends to develop a detailed route alignment for statutory consultation in 2021. It anticipates that the new railway would be designated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, meaning the application for construction consent would be submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government rather than to local councils. Approval is expected in 2023, with the line expected to open for revenue services in the mid-2020s.
The indicative cost estimates vary from £2·0bn to £3·4bn, at 2015 prices. These assume the line would be suitable for mixed traffic operation.
A wealth of benefits
According to EWRC, the line would unlock ‘a wealth of benefits for communities along the route,’ by reducing journey times and transport costs, supporting housing growth and boosting the local economy. Cambridge – Bedford journey times would be between 23 and 27 min, with Oxford – Cambridge taking 76 to 83 min.