Will new east/west rail link ever reach Ipswich – or carry freight trains?

Will trains from Ipswich to Cambridge ever carry on to Oxford? Picture: PAUL GEATER

Will trains from Ipswich to Cambridge ever carry on to Oxford? Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Hopes of developing through rail services between Ipswich and the south west of England are still being considered – despite fears that a new cross-country rail link may only be for commuter services.

The East/West rail consortium wants the new Cambridge to Oxford rail line to be part of a wider network of passenger and freight services.

That could see trains from Ipswich and Norwich running to Swindon – on the main line to the West Country – and potentially to Cardiff or Bristol.

And it could also be used by freight trains from Felixstowe to the south west and Wales.

However Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said last week that the new line was being conceived as a commuter route between the two university cities.

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He said: “It is going to be built as a commuter route linking Oxford and Cambridge linking in to Bedford, Bletchley and Milton Keynes. It may be used for freight and other services if there is room in the future – but that is the current proposal.”

Ipswich Councillor Phil Smart is a member of the East/West Rail Consortium that has been pressing for the reinstatement of the line between Cambridge and Oxford, closed after the publication of the Beeching Report, for more than a decade.

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He said it was still worthwhile pressing for the links to extend east of Cambridge: “This would be an important link for passengers – and there are practical reasons why it would be necessary to run trains through Cambridge.

“There simply would not be room to stable and turn around the number of trains that will be using Cambridge station if some of them did not continue through to other destinations like Ipswich and Norwich.”

And he said the route could be used by freight trains – especially when the existing cross-country line through Ely and Peterborough was blocked.

Mr Smart said: “When the line was blocked at Manea last year all the freight had to go around the north London line. The Mayor of London is trying to clear that for passenger services so it makes sense to allow more freight to use a route like this.”

Much of the cross-country line to Oxford line is already there as a local passenger service or a disused line that needs to be rebuilt – but a new section will need to be built between Cambridge and Bedford.

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