A vision of how East West rail could look under think-tank’s proposals
“If everybody is serious about having substantial growth between Oxford and Cambridge, they have got to be equally serious about delivering imaginative and effective public transport links otherwise everyone will get in their car for everything.”
Community-based, voluntary think tank CamBedRailRoad (CBRR) has designed what it believes to be the optimal route for the Oxford to Cambridge transport corridor’s ‘missing link’.
Led by two transport infrastructure civil engineers, the think tank hopes its route will be considered alongside those already proposed by the government.
Sebastian Kindersley, chairman of CBRR and county councillor, told the Cambridge Independent: “Our ultimate aim is that when the decision is made for the Cambridge to Oxford missing rail link, we want our scheme to be at least considered equally along with the other four.”
He continued: “We’re connecting people and places where they work and where they live rather than driving a railway through the countryside that isn’t going to deliver anything to anyone.”
The current preferred option for the ‘missing link’ section of the East West Rail would see the route from Bedford to Cambridge pass through Sandy and Potton in Bedfordshire and Gamlingay in Cambridgeshire before joining up with the Royston to Cambridge line at Shepreth, which CBRR say “isn’t going to add a single rail journey for anyone locally”.
It follows a similar route to the former Varsity Line, which closed in 1967, and East West Rail, the government-commissioned company behind the Oxford to Cambridge plans, has already reopened sections of the former railway near Oxford.
CBRR is proposing a more costly route that would serve new stations at Cambourne (including new developments at Cambourne West and Bourn Airfield) and Northstowe before joining the city line at Cambridge North.
It also proposes a new chord connection to join the line to Newmarket, Bury, Ipswich and Felixstowe to improve freight connections and relieve the A14. This option would also connect these areas to north/south railway lines via Cambridge.
“The world is literally your oyster,” said Cllr Kindersley. He continued: “Our area is driving the UK economy. The scale of development that brings means we must get the infrastructure right and for the sake of our residents and future generations it must be sustainable.
“Putting both road and rail along the A428 corridor where so much growth is planned delivers sustainable infrastructure with a minimum of planning blight. It is the obvious solution.”
CBRR was formed following the publication of the potential routes in the belief that those routes did not fulfil the government’s desire for a coordinated approach to road and rail infrastructure.
“They realised that this is not what the government actually wanted, as it made clear on several occasions, with the road link, the rail link and everything else to be done in a coordinated fashion to drive the economy,” said Cllr Kindersley.
He added: “They asked is there a better place? The better place is, quite frankly, the A428 corridor.” This route, CBRR believes, will better serve the growing communities of Cambourne and Northstowe but also those further afield with Wixams near Bedford or Wintringham Park, St Neots.
Cllr Kindersley explained: “If you’re a nurse at Addenbrooke’s and you’re on £21,000 a year, there is a chance that you could afford a starter home at Northstowe or a starter home at Wixams or Wintringham Park.
“Wouldn’t it then be great if instead of getting into your car and heading down the A428 or A14 into Cambridge and using the Park & Rides and all the rest of it – at some considerable expense – wouldn’t it be great if you could cycle to your local railway station at Northstowe or Cambourne and get a train to not just Addenbrooke’s but also Bedford and further afield?”
CBRR has already begun presenting its proposals to parish councils and has met with Heidi Allen MP and mayor James Palmer.
“We’re on a journey and it’s very interesting and exciting,” said Cllr Kindersley. “We have had no dissenting voice at all. We may be being completely naive and innocent but our scheme resonates with the people we explain it to.”
Civil engineers Brian Bell and Barry Johnson are part of the team behind the project, and between them have more than seven decades of experience designing structures and dealing with construction issues. They have worked on projects in Cambridge, the UK and the Far East, including the Hong Kong mass transit railway.
Further public meetings will be held over the coming weeks and months, with the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership hosting a meeting at Shepreth Village Hall on September 25 at 7.30pm.