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East Anglia: New boost to hopes for new rail link to south and west

11:11 20 August 2014

Trains like this could one day link Cambridge and Oxford again.

Trains like this could one day link Cambridge and Oxford again.


Hopes of restoring a rail link axed by Dr Beeching in the 1960s to give a direct route from Felixstowe and Ipswich to Swindon and the line to south Wales and the West Country have received a big boost.


The East West Rail Consortium has published a report that shows that extending the East West Rail line from Oxford to Cambridge has real potential.

The report concludes a study by Atkins Consultants and is the first step towards developing an outline business case for the East West Rail ‘Central Section’.

The largely-mothballed rail line between Oxford and Bedford is being upgraded for full passenger uses, and from Oxford there is a main line to Swindon which is on the main route to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea.

However the 30-mile stretch between Cambridge and Bedford was axed in the 1960s, and would have to be rebuilt.

Network Rail will now lead the next phase of work which will consider and examine the engineering, operational and planning feasibility and cost of several potential route options.

That work is expected to identify a preferred route and in early 2015 and provide the basis for the development of an outline business case.

The aim is to establish a scheme that can be submitted to Government in 2016 to secure inclusion of the scheme, subject to funding availability, in the 2019-24 investment plans for the rail industry.

Ipswich councillor Phil Smart said: “As the consortium’s founding member I am delighted that our vision of fast, direct trains to Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford via Cambridge looks set to become a reality.

“This line now has support across the political spectrum at all levels of government as well as from business leaders and transport campaigners. What some once regarded as a ‘pipe dream’ will soon be a vital economic artery serving our part of the

Bob Menzies, of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Now that the Western Section between Oxford, Bedford and Milton Keynes is going ahead, we are working to develop the business case for the Central Section to complete the missing link.

“The former line between Bedford and Cambridge has been dismantled, the land sold and sections used for other purposes, including housing. This means that we are looking at constructing a brand new railway.”



  • Great news....can't wait for a direct train link to, what's it called...err Swindon. Thanks Network Rail for making this a priority above and beyond better services in East Anglia; i.e. linking the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, via Essex and Cambs and beyond, mainly to London and West MidsEast Mids conurbations. Any realistic and viable statistics to support link to Swindon?

    Report this comment

    Steve Blake

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • To be fair, having looked at this report, it doesn't seem to give any preference to either Ipswich or Norwich - indeed, they are not much mentioned - although it does talk of improved journey times between Ipswich, Norwich and Cambridge and places to the west. It indeed does say that if these trains are too slow then people won't use them but travel via London, causing the whole East-West Rail business case to fall apart before it's begun. One has to remember that the E-W consortium is very specifically targeted on Milton Keynes-Bedford-Cambridge; what happens to the east of that is Network Rail's pigeon. However the hope would be that, if the rebuilding of this railway were including in the Network Rail planning period 2019-24, then they would have to also look at the links eastward from Cambridge. This all may happen, the Western section is already in the period before that and some initial work has already begun. But this more easterly section will be much more difficult.

    Report this comment

    Baptist Trainfan

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • @Baptist, don't let facts get in the way of a 'story'.

    Report this comment

    Esco Fiasco

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Just a note for accuracy's sake: although the Oxford-Cambridge rail link indeed closed in 1967, it was against Dr. Beeching's advice. He had not listed it in his infamous report. In the early 60s it was being talked about as a main east-west freight route, which is why the Bletchley flyover (hardly ever used in the end) was built.

    Report this comment

    Baptist Trainfan

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Well said the Ginge I sometimes think that SCC Councillor's are in the pockets of NCC. Biased reporting from the BBC and Anglia No one fighting for us in Parliament We are even taking Norfolk's rubbish

    Report this comment


    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

  • Please carefully read the commens of the various people before making a comment. 1. The high speed link will be between Cambridge and OxfordSwindon. From Ipswich we will still rattle along on single track line at 40mph taking over an 1hr to Cambridge which is a journey of 45miles by rail and shoould be done in 30mins by High Speed 100mph trains. 2. Any direct onward services from Cambridge will be to Norwich. It is not being called the varsity line for nothing. 3. So to get from South Wales to Ipswich you are probably going to have to change at Swindon 30mins1hr wait, Oxford 30mins1hr wait and Cambridge 30mins1hr wait, ending up on a local yokal rural line. Wasting an hour at each. You would be a lot better of going through London which will be quicker and faster. 4. So unless we get direct high speed train to Ipswich every 30mins, unless they upgrade the Ipswich to Cambridge Line to take those trains, unless they electrify that line and unless the politicians of Ipswich stand up and say, no we are not spending billions on a project to benefit Cambridge and Norwich whilst we ge the crumbs it pretty pointless. Yet again it shows how Suffolk politicians are out manouvered by their counter parts in the rest of East Anglia to strengthen Norwich and Cambridge at the expense of Ipswich. Stand up for Ipswich for once and think i through for once moorons.

    Report this comment

    The Ginge

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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