Proposals for "Northern arc": linking north Oxfordshire (Banbury) with Northampton and Peterborough

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squizzler

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I suggest the main value in this proposal right now is its opportunity to break the cycle of 'paralysis through analysis' that plagues commitment to East West Rail with the latter seemingly having rather conflicted justifications. Is EWR a 'Reversing Beeching (tm)' business of opening up disused freight lines and reinstating a bit of lost track to create a Versity Line for boozy students to pub crawl between Oxford and Cambridge? Or is it supposed to be a fit-for-purpose 21st century inter-regional rail corridor? Perhaps we need both, achieved over separate routes?

If NAR offers the possibility of a high performance east-west linkage in the future, we can presumably just get on with building EWR for current needs as a glorified commuter line with short DMU's beetling back and forth between Oxford and Cambridge, safe in the knowledge that there is the opportunity to build a proper 'mainline spec' interconnection between the legacy mainlines at some point in the future.
 

geoffk

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Been there - done that. And a table.
I did an IKEA shop for my daughter a few years ago, by train and with a change at Manchester Vic. A mirror and several smaller items, no table though. I think my time from Ashton-under-Lyne station to IKEA and back was under 45 minutes! Olympic shopping.

What about Aberdeen, Durham, Bangor, Chelmsford, Swansea, Hull, Walsall, Sandwell & Dudley, Luton, Blackpool, Sunderland, Poole and Telford?
How many of these are bigger than Northampton? Swansea and Hull, Walsall and Sunderland (depending on definitions). Other than Walsall these are on the coast and two are termini, whereas Northampton is bang in the middle of the country.
 
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Camden

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These are the latest Travel to Work Areas from the 2011 Census. These are defined as: "of the resident economically active population, at least 75% actually work in the area, and also, that of everyone working in the area, at least 75% actually live in the area."

The Northampton one includes Daventry and Towcester, but not Banbury: https://mapit.mysociety.org/area/163666.html

Banbury has its own area which includes Brackley: https://mapit.mysociety.org/area/163580.html

This means that Banbury has fairly small levels of out-commuting to Oxford or Northampton.
Even Wellingborough not falling into Northampton's TTWA shows up an economic linkage deficiency for a county seat just a few miles away.

Creating new TTWAs to stimulate economic demand, over just serving existing ones, is an approach the UK hasn't tried in a long while, but the outcomes of being successful are clearly there for the taking.
 

si404

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Even Wellingborough not falling into Northampton's TTWA shows up an economic linkage deficiency for a county seat just a few miles away.
But stuff like that happens all over, even when there's very good transport connections. Northolt, Northwood, Hounslow, Hillingdon, Surbiton, Southall, etc aren't in London's TTWA.

There's no reason why Corby being a separate TTWA to the rest of East Northants, is a bad thing, nor that Northampton is an economic entity that hasn't sucked in East Northants to its orbit. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't be well connected by quality transport links (both public and private).

And, of course TTWAs are fluid - in the 2001 TTWAs, Heathrow and West London was still joined with London rather than with Slough as the 2011 TTWA data has. And High Wycombe paired southwards with Slough, rather than northwards with Aylesbury.
 

A0wen

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Even Wellingborough not falling into Northampton's TTWA shows up an economic linkage deficiency for a county seat just a few miles away.
But this whole "county" town, "county seat" is a nonsense. There are plenty of examples where the "county town" is an utter irrelevance - Cheshire has been quoted where places like Altrincham or Macclesfield have absolutely no affinity with Chester.

Where Wellingborough is concerned - that will be less so with Northampton when the unitary authority comes in next year as Wellingborough, Kettering & Corby are part of the proposed East Northants, with Northampton and Daventry West Northants.

For jobs, shopping and leisure, people in Wellingborough are as likely to look at Milton Keynes as they are Northampton, despite the additional distance. Mainly because MK has more large employers than Northampton and a vastly better shopping and leisure offering.
 

BrianW

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But this whole "county" town, "county seat" is a nonsense.
I cannot think that any business locates itself somewhere because someone described it thus; nor that anyone takes a job there or lives there or visits on that basis.

Similarly with Travel To Work Areas. Some jobs may be worth travelling further for; some places become attractive to move to on the basis of relative house 'affordability'. I find it hard to think someone turns down a job possibility because they live outside the same TTWA. Maybe I'm wrong. Surely it's the other way about- TTWAs reflect current transport provision.

I'm all for serious investigation of any possible public transport improvements,
'up to a point Lord Copper'. Someone has to pay Atkins, Jacobs, Kier, Skanska, Volker Fitzpatrick, WSP, and all those involved with baselining and workstreams etc- including you and me and us all.

Looking forward to a lot of enlightening in the upcoming EEH webinar.
 

Maltazer

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For jobs, shopping and leisure, people in Wellingborough are as likely to look at Milton Keynes as they are Northampton, despite the additional distance. Mainly because MK has more large employers than Northampton and a vastly better shopping and leisure offering.
I lived close to Wellingborough for a number of years, and hardly ever went to Northampton, and only then because they had a big B&Q (this was before Wellingborough got its own branch). Shopping etc was always to Milton Keynes - far more choice, less congestion and much easier to park.
 

A0wen

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I lived close to Wellingborough for a number of years, and hardly ever went to Northampton, and only then because they had a big B&Q (this was before Wellingborough got its own branch). Shopping etc was always to Milton Keynes - far more choice, less congestion and much easier to park.
And I'm willing to bet a couple of other things - you went to Banbury even less often than Northampton. And even if there had been a rail link between Northampton and Wellingborough, you'd still have driven it.

How did I do?
 

HSTEd

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Believe what you like, but public transport isn't going to be able to serve every village or hamlet. It never did in the past, which is why people retained their horse and cart despite the advent of both the train and the motor bus.
I don't think it would cost an earth shattering amount of money to do just that.......
 

squizzler

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As well as the obvious cross country routes (note the absence of capitalisation, other franchises might run such services) from east midlands to the south and southwest, would it be worth having a spur onto HS2 where the two routes intersect? The benefit of doing so are that services from the east midlands could access Heathrow aerodrome via Old Oak Common, although I accept that the section of HS2 where those services would join are forecast to run at maximum capacity.
 

A0wen

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I don't think it would cost an earth shattering amount of money to do just that.......
Well, it depends what that provision looks like. Take Herts as an example - currently bus subsidies (so non-commercial routes) runs at about £ 3.3m a year and I can name a dozen small villages / hamlets which are currently unserved even by a once a week shoppers bus.

If you wanted to uplift the service levels to hourly or better, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week - I suspect you wouldn't see change from £ 30m - and that's just one county. And running empty or half empty buses around isn't good for the environment either.
 

Philip Phlopp

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As well as the obvious cross country routes (note the absence of capitalisation, other franchises might run such services) from east midlands to the south and southwest, would it be worth having a spur onto HS2 where the two routes intersect? The benefit of doing so are that services from the east midlands could access Heathrow aerodrome via Old Oak Common, although I accept that the section of HS2 where those services would join are forecast to run at maximum capacity.
The problem with that plan is that there will be very little capacity available to Heathrow Airport from the east when Crossrail is up and running. There is an alternative, the Western Rail Approach to Heathrow (WRAtH) which is towards the end of the development stage. That will diverge from the GWML between Langley and Iver giving services from Cardiff, Bristol and Reading direct access to the airport.

If suitable rolling stock is chosen or further electrification is undertaken (the Heathrow branch is only available to trains operating on electric power) then services from Oxford and potentially much further afield would be able to access Heathrow, subject to pathing constraints.
 

HSTEd

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Well, it depends what that provision looks like. Take Herts as an example - currently bus subsidies (so non-commercial routes) runs at about £ 3.3m a year and I can name a dozen small villages / hamlets which are currently unserved even by a once a week shoppers bus.

If you wanted to uplift the service levels to hourly or better, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week - I suspect you wouldn't see change from £ 30m - and that's just one county. And running empty or half empty buses around isn't good for the environment either.
Well even on the county scale, £30m is peanuts.

How many hamlets are there in England and Wales?
What would it cost to put four Optare Solos an hour through all of them?
 

ForTheLoveOf

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As well as the obvious cross country routes (note the absence of capitalisation, other franchises might run such services) from east midlands to the south and southwest, would it be worth having a spur onto HS2 where the two routes intersect? The benefit of doing so are that services from the east midlands could access Heathrow aerodrome via Old Oak Common, although I accept that the section of HS2 where those services would join are forecast to run at maximum capacity.
HS2 is already stretching the limits of what can be done capacity wise on high speed track, with 'only' 1tph (~5%) recovery/growth capacity. Apart from running 4 tracks all the way to Old Oak Common (£££ and political suicide given how contested even 2 tracks are in the Chilterns), the only way you could fit in trains to more places would be to split and join trains more.

But many services are already planned as 400m long so cannot possibly be extended, and those that are planned as 200m would have to slow down, stop at a Calvert Interchange style station (thus lose time and waste scarce paths), uncouple, then each go their separate ways. It's just not going to happen, it's far too expensive and far too much of a performance risk - even if both portions were to be entirely HS2 captive - on a railway that's as tight a ship as HS2 will be running eventually.
 

edwin_m

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Well even on the county scale, £30m is peanuts.

How many hamlets are there in England and Wales?
What would it cost to put four Optare Solos an hour through all of them?
4BPH might be a bit over the top, but in Switzerland and parts of Germany pretty much every settlement has a public transport service to a node with connections into the hierarchy of longer-distance services via the takt. Consequently public transport is viable for a good range of journeys, though not all, and although car ownership is generally higher car use is less. It's about having the options available to make choices. Whereas here we persist with a disintegrated network that may ostensibly save money but isn't actually of much use to most people.
 

Maltazer

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And I'm willing to bet a couple of other things - you went to Banbury even less often than Northampton. And even if there had been a rail link between Northampton and Wellingborough, you'd still have driven it.
How did I do?
Have a gold star! I've never been to Banbury in my life :) And yes, I would have driven it. Trains are fine if you're not carrying loads of stuff - living in Ely now I prefer the train for trips to Bury St Edmunds or Norwich, but only if it's just a day out and we fancy a pub lunch (well, pre-lockdown anyway)
 

squizzler

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But many services are already planned as 400m long so cannot possibly be extended, and those that are planned as 200m would have to slow down, stop at a Calvert Interchange style station (thus lose time and waste scarce paths), uncouple, then each go their separate ways. It's just not going to happen, it's far too expensive and far too much of a performance risk - even if both portions were to be entirely HS2 captive - on a railway that's as tight a ship as HS2 will be running eventually.
The problem with that plan is that there will be very little capacity available to Heathrow Airport from the east when Crossrail is up and running. There is an alternative, the Western Rail Approach to Heathrow (WRAtH) which is towards the end of the development stage. That will diverge from the GWML between Langley and Iver giving services from Cardiff, Bristol and Reading direct access to the airport.

If suitable rolling stock is chosen or further electrification is undertaken (the Heathrow branch is only available to trains operating on electric power) then services from Oxford and potentially much further afield would be able to access Heathrow, subject to pathing constraints.
You are both right about HS2 capacity. The WRAtH suggestion accessed through Oxford and the GWML sounds more plausible for creating paths from the east midlands to Heathrow. One certainly hopes that the necessary lines would be electrified by the distance future that we might expect to see NAR built.

A Heathrow service taking that route to Peterborough (of beyond) would intercept all three legacy mainlines, providing them with easier transfer than via London termini, even if most of the market on the WCML will already be using HS2.
 

A0wen

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A Heathrow service taking that route to Peterborough (of beyond) would intercept all three legacy mainlines, providing them with easier transfer than via London termini, even if most of the market on the WCML will already be using HS2.
But to what end ? Of those three "legacy mainlines" HS2 will link to Euston directly (no change needed) literally walk out of HS2 platforms and onto the next as per St Pancras for HS1.

Of the other two, you seem to be overlooking Crossrail which means that for points on the MML to Bedford and points to Peterborough on the ECML (and Cambridge for that matter) , there will be a single change at Farringdon. For points further north HS2 towards Sheffield or Nottingham will connect those areas much more quickly.

So what is the problem you think you're fixing by running a Peterborough - Heathrow service ?
 

BanburyBlue

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Have a gold star! I've never been to Banbury in my life :) And yes, I would have driven it. Trains are fine if you're not carrying loads of stuff - living in Ely now I prefer the train for trips to Bury St Edmunds or Norwich, but only if it's just a day out and we fancy a pub lunch (well, pre-lockdown anyway)
Banbury - Wellingborough is a little different to Banbury - Northampton. Banbury and Wellingborough a very similar sized towns, and Northampton is in the middle. I live in Banbury and I've never been to Wellingborough in my life (been past it many times on the A45) on the way East. I have been to Northampton though many times.

My original point still stands, that Northampton being a large town, will attract travel from smaller towns for shopping, leisure, employment etc. I totally accept that there may be bigger, better shopping centres, theatres, restaurants elsewhere, but some people will still travel to Northampton for many reasons.
 

A0wen

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Banbury - Wellingborough is a little different to Banbury - Northampton. Banbury and Wellingborough a very similar sized towns, and Northampton is in the middle. I live in Banbury and I've never been to Wellingborough in my life (been past it many times on the A45) on the way East. I have been to Northampton though many times.

My original point still stands, that Northampton being a large town, will attract travel from smaller towns for shopping, leisure, employment etc. I totally accept that there may be bigger, better shopping centres, theatres, restaurants elsewhere, but some people will still travel to Northampton for many reasons.
Well OK - but follow that to its logical conclusion. I regularly travel from where I live in Northampton to the middle of rural Hertfordshire to visit my parents. There isn't a rail link (nor in the case of their village was there ever one) - does that justify spending up to or may be more than £ 1bn ?

Rail is an efficient way to move people *when it is moving alot of people who want to travel to certain destinations * - so the trains from Northampton to London and Northampton to Birmingham are busy.

That Banbury can't even sustain a regular direct bus service to Towcester, Northampton or Daventry tells you the demand for those journeys is relatively low. And on that basis it is far better to spend the sums - which for heavy rail always were and always will be significant - on areas where there is genuine demand.

As a comparison, Oxford to Cambridge (basically the route of EWR) *does* sustain a regular coach service which is well used, so it is reasonable to contend a rail link there might be viable.
 

BrianW

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Rail is an efficient way to move people *when it is moving a lot of people who want to travel to certain destinations *
I 'attended' the EEH webinar yesterday- a number of points relate:
1. No-one needed to travel 'there' at all; and no-one did
2. I wondered how much was paid for the logo and the name for something of an incoherent area.
3. There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on the time beyond electric cars
4. There was a lot of doubt and diversity about demographics- eg an 'ageing population', housing unaffordable for young people, where will people, go to work (if at all or not so often)
5. It seems to me hard to see how 'they' will find a basis on which to justify ANY new rail other than a lot of 'social' visiting by and to carless folk or tourism.
6. A lot of placepeople on a vanity unproject scoring well on 'buzzword bingo' with ambition to get things done going forward, people-focused and aligned with valued local partners shaping tomorrow's connectivity today.

I concur with whoever it was who said 'wait and see' until EWR is up and running, unless there is some unlikely announcement about (and construction of!) a major new development like another MK or new English parliament or Cubblington ...

... and in passing I remain unsure why anyone in Oxford will even consider a trip to 'the other place'- why would you?
 

BanburyBlue

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Well OK - but follow that to its logical conclusion. I regularly travel from where I live in Northampton to the middle of rural Hertfordshire to visit my parents. There isn't a rail link (nor in the case of their village was there ever one) - does that justify spending up to or may be more than £ 1bn ?

Rail is an efficient way to move people *when it is moving alot of people who want to travel to certain destinations * - so the trains from Northampton to London and Northampton to Birmingham are busy.

That Banbury can't even sustain a regular direct bus service to Towcester, Northampton or Daventry tells you the demand for those journeys is relatively low. And on that basis it is far better to spend the sums - which for heavy rail always were and always will be significant - on areas where there is genuine demand.

As a comparison, Oxford to Cambridge (basically the route of EWR) *does* sustain a regular coach service which is well used, so it is reasonable to contend a rail link there might be viable.
Totally agree - I'd be surprised if Banbury to Northampton travel would justify a rail link. Unless you like to travel on trains, or things like easier to get to work (avoiding rush hour traffic etc), most people travel on trains because they have to (i.e. no car).

Mind you, I don't suppose we are talking here of a Banbury to Northampton shuttle. I'm guessing trains would start further down the track - Oxford, Reading?
 

squizzler

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Mind you, I don't suppose we are talking here of a Banbury to Northampton shuttle. I'm guessing trains would start further down the track - Oxford, Reading?
Nor even a Banbury to Peterborough shuttle! Swindon is talked about as the the preferred westernmost node of any future mesh of rail services within the EEH.

How about a Lowestoft to Penzance service? If you are going make a route from east to west, why not do it in style!
 

BanburyBlue

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Nor even a Banbury to Peterborough shuttle! Swindon is talked about as the the preferred westernmost node of any future mesh of rail services within the EEH.

How about a Lowestoft to Penzance service? If you are going make a route from east to west, why not do it in style!
Ah, I like the sound of that. Is Gt Yarmouth to Penzance feasible?
 

NorthOxonian

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That Banbury can't even sustain a regular direct bus service to Towcester, Northampton or Daventry tells you the demand for those journeys is relatively low. And on that basis it is far better to spend the sums - which for heavy rail always were and always will be significant - on areas where there is genuine demand.
You've said this a few times, but there is an hourly bus service Banbury - Daventry, and these tend to get quite busy throughout the day. Many passengers make end to end journeys so there's clearly some demand. That's despite the journey taking a long time for the distance thanks to a dogleg through Woodford Halse.

However, I'm not sure there's much onward demand to Northampton - I get the feeling the service is mainly used by Daventry residents travelling to Banbury for shopping, or interchanging onto trains to Oxford, Bicester, or the Thames Valley. While in an ideal world Daventry would connect to the national network more effectively, that doesn't seem to be part of any proposal - the route is further south through villages with some of the highest car ownership rates in the country.
 

si404

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that doesn't seem to be part of any proposal
Daventry is part of the proposal (well proposed study area) - it even gets a specific mention in the detail on p83 of the report in the potential benefits ("Ability to provide services to high growth sites that are currently not on the rail network such as Daventry"), unlike Banbury which only appears in the summary description of the arcs on p82 ("This is flanked by a northern arc that provides connectivity in a corridor that links North Oxfordshire Banbury with Northampton, North Northamptonshire and Peterborough") - though not the one on p8 ("Northern Arc: A corridor linking North Oxfordshire with Northamptonshire and on to Peterborough").
the route is further south through villages with some of the highest car ownership rates in the country.
There is no 'route'. It's an oval on a map promising a study!
 

A0wen

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You've said this a few times, but there is an hourly bus service Banbury - Daventry, and these tend to get quite busy throughout the day. Many passengers make end to end journeys so there's clearly some demand. That's despite the journey taking a long time for the distance thanks to a dogleg through Woodford Halse.
My bad, I thought that had been cut. It must have been the Southam and Leamington one which was.

However, I'm not sure there's much onward demand to Northampton - I get the feeling the service is mainly used by Daventry residents travelling to Banbury for shopping, or interchanging onto trains to Oxford, Bicester, or the Thames Valley. While in an ideal world Daventry would connect to the national network more effectively, that doesn't seem to be part of any proposal - the route is further south through villages with some of the highest car ownership rates in the country.
Daventry never had a particularly good rail link being missed by the WCML to the east and GC to the west. It lost its own station, which was on a minor branch, in 1958.

People I know who live in Daventry head to Rugby if they're looking to go anywhere by train.
 

A0wen

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Mind you, I don't suppose we are talking here of a Banbury to Northampton shuttle. I'm guessing trains would start further down the track - Oxford, Reading?
EWR would be better with a planned MK to Oxford service but I believe extending to Northampton is a capacity problem.
 

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