East Anglia: LibDems back new cross-country rail route

Nick Clegg wants "Garden Cities" to pay for the new rail line.

Nick Clegg wants "Garden Cities" to pay for the new rail line. - Credit: PA

Proposals to rebuild the rail line linking this region with the south west and south Wales have got the backing of the LibDems at their annual conference.

Party leader Nick Clegg said the “missing link” of the proposed line from Cambridge to Bedford should be funded by the creation of three to five new “garden cities” on the route.

The line from Ipswich to Cambridge would be upgraded, possibly electrified, and the line from Bedford to Oxford through Milton Keynes is already being rebuilt.

However the line from Cambridge to Bedford was ripped up under the Beeching axe, and a new route would have to be built.

Mr Clegg said this could be paid for by building 50,000 homes along the 30-mile route: “Britain faces a housing crisis. Every day, 200 fewer families own their own home, as home owners die and more young families get stuck renting, unable to afford to buy.

“Housebuilding is stuck in the doldrums, with nowhere near enough homes being built to meet demand and keep prices affordable for those families desperate for a home of their own.

“The Conservatives have held back the development of Garden Cities on the scale necessary, but if Liberal Democrats are part of the next government, we will ensure at least ten get underway – with up to five along this new railway, bringing new homes and jobs to the brain-belt of South East England.”

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The western end of the line is already being upgraded, and Network Rail is expected to start work restoring the “missing link” between 2019 and 2024 – but it could be another 15 years before the project is completed.

But once complete, it would allow freight trains to travel from Felixstowe to the other side of the country without using the congested rail lines around London, and for passengers to reach destinations in the south west and Wales without going through the capital.