What is really happening with East West Rail (EWR) between Bedford and Cambridge

Discussion in 'Infrastructure & Stations' started by Passenger John, 10 May 2015.

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  1. Passenger John

    Passenger John Member

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    Does anyone know what the current situation is with the Bedford to Cambridge link. Will it ever be built, it has all gone very quiet lately in the Cambridge area.
     
  2. aylesbury

    aylesbury Member

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    Probably being worked on in the background but I would think that Oxford Bedford is the main priority. There is a problem with he trackbed being built on in quite a few places and it will cost a great deal to build a new railway. Unfortunately England does not seem able to build new railways and this is going to be a major project with perhaps not a high return for he money.
     
  3. richieb1971

    richieb1971 Member

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    Agreed on the priorities.

    There was a thread earlier this year (or late last year) that I started where members here talked of a spur being built at Clapham (north of Bedford) and heading to the south end of St Neots. Beyond that the EWR consortium are looking at which destinations it would be most profitable to go through.

    I don't believe any of the other options are viable. At least where keeping Bedford Midland on the route is feasible.

    I have heard on here that the Oxford section is being delayed due to electrification. However I believe its a stall tactic since the track comes before the gantries.
     
  4. The Planner

    The Planner Established Member

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    Oxford section has slipped slightly due to other issues, electrification isn't one of them.
     
  5. richieb1971

    richieb1971 Member

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  6. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    I will stick my neck out and say the bit beyond Bedford wont happen anytime soon.
     
  7. Passenger John

    Passenger John Member

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    Thats one of the reasons I started this thread, I have this feeling as do others round here are beginning to think it will NEVER happen
     
  8. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    Oxford - Blethcley/MK will happen. The Marston Vale may get electrified but there sesms to be lots of problems in building the line from Bedford. I hope i am wrong...............
     
  9. edwin_m

    edwin_m Veteran Member

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    The Oxford-Bedford section is relatively easy because it is an existing though partly mothballed railway, so although most of the infrastructure requires replacement there is at least no debate about what route it should take and very few planning issues. Because the line onwards from Bedford is disused and has been lost in some places, there has to be consideration of alternative routes which are probably better transport-wise but more expensive and raise more concerns with the locals if they go where no railway has gone before. Whatever results (if anything) will be a major transport project with significant potential for planning delays and will need the kind of political support that HS2 has got if it is to succeed.
     
  10. CockneySparrow

    CockneySparrow Established Member

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    Doing a new alignment is one thing in the countryside but trying to get it out of Bedford is something else

    The original line in the Barkers Road area has been built on
     
  11. richieb1971

    richieb1971 Member

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    Its Barkers Lane and its still relatively clear. Its actually a cycle path. You have to go past Willington before you hit any big obstacles.

    But this is where it gets interesting. The EWR have no interest in following the old route from what I can tell. They seem much more focused on following the A428 towards the south of St Neots and beyond.

    Also, looking at the routes that were considered, they are very straight. No windy track, just straight as an arrow going towards Cambridge.

    The official website is crap.. no updates for 2 months at a time.
     
  12. Pigeon

    Pigeon Member

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    There is no problem getting out of Bedford apart from bridging the A421, the problem with Bedford is where do you put the station. The old St Johns site doesn't give the connections at Midland and is too far out of the town centre, and the idea of just giving up, building a station where the lines cross south of Bedford and not bothering to actually serve Bedford at all is idiotic. It has to be Midland, and to serve Midland involves either reversing or building a new line from north of the town. Hence, I suppose, the attraction of the St Neots route.

    I can't see any other attraction to it though. It would add many miles to the route, both from going at right angles to the desired direction at Bedford, and from the approach to Cambridge, where the options are either to head south and connect with the line to Hitchin, or to go all the way round the outside and join the King's Lynn line coming in from the north-east. It requires a lot more civil engineering because apart from there being no previous trackbed, the land rises 40-50 metres to the east of the MML north of Bedford and remains undulating all the way to St Neots. It might be slightly more populous but I don't think there's a lot in it.

    I have seen a chap's idea somewhere to essentially switch the positions of Midland station and its car park, and the stabling point - ie. put the sidings north of Ford End Road bridge, and the station and car park south of it - and then build a curve between the two river bridges, the EW link to join the MML south of Bedford, stop at platforms on the curve, and continue out of Bedford on its original route. I think it's an excellent solution if it can be made to work, but I think he's been a bit optimistic about being able to fit it in without too tight a radius of curvature. It looks touch and go. Realigning the eastern river bridge would help.

    The principal obstacles on the old route are the need to build a new flyover and deviation at Sandy, and the need for a deviation approaching Cambridge to avoid the radio telescope, which would most simply connect to the Hitchin-Cambridge line west of the M11. Both of those there is space for, and however you look at it, it involves a lot less brand new construction than any other option.

    It's also the only route that does not go miles out of the way. I have a nasty idea that the EW link is in danger of being nice and fast and direct from Oxford to Bedford, but then become incongruously slow as it meanders all round the houses to get to Cambridge. The only other route that has anything going for it is to reopen the Bedford-Hitchin line, which would serve various places that could do with a railway, but it is still a long way round and an awful lot of it has been built on in those very places that could do with it.

    It does gall me that this undeniably useful route, which fills a big gap in the railway system and would make possible a lot of journeys using it for part of the way that presently are just silly, has been subject to decades of dithering, during which time the vastly more expensive HS2 project pops up out of nowhere and suddenly absolutely has to go ahead. Of course it doesn't help that Bedford council seem to be trying to set some sort of record for the council with the highest long-term proportion of skulls full of soup, but since the Marston Vale line is still an active railway they are the least important when it comes to the Bedford-Oxford section. Not to mention that also during all the dithering vast sums have been spent building a whole new A421 - not just upgrading an existing road, but building a whole new dual cabbageway alongside it.
     
  13. L&Y Robert

    L&Y Robert Member

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    If the Country can afford to build a whole new cabbageway, why can't it afford to build a whole new railway? Never mind this route and that route and the round-the-houses route - just build a nice new railway, as if it were a nice new cabbageway, and then put rails on it. Same philosophy, different hardware. Voila! Problem solved.
     
  14. Blamethrower

    Blamethrower Member

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    I recently submitted a proposal to the East Midlands Railway usage or something like that (but not exactly :) )

    I said that whilst the building of a new route will be difficult, it can be mitigated by collaborating with road builders.

    ie. There is a plan to dual the A428 all the way to MK - making a continuous A421/428 from Cambridge to Milton Keynes. They are also considering the possibility of extending all the way to Oxford which is what would make sense (link to A34/M40/A40 etc).

    They could also collaborate with Bedford Borough Council and share the cost for a north-east orbital bypass (to complete it when the northern section is completed next year) and add a local station at Putnoe/Brickhill.

    It's jsut arriving in Cambridge that is the problem.

    I, like others, think that this will never get built. For the sole reason that it is a new railway in England, something which we have a mortal fear of for some reason.

    It was I who mooted the Clapham/StNeots/A428 route to EWR, Network Rail and the other public bodies.

    Perhaps they are studying the potentials, but they can only be achieved if they collaborate with road builders (if they want to get through the planning stage)

    People are always more likely to be open to construction if it means that they can benefit. ie local stations, new convenient road routes etc

    The current route via willington, blunham, sandy, gamlingay is all single track and so will require much more engineering than most are suggesting, plus it's been built on and for many it is the route to country parks and many amenities based on or near the river. Plus it will require masses of engineering if you want to connect with MML, unless you reverse at Bedford, which is just stupid
     
    Last edited: 11 May 2015
  15. The Planner

    The Planner Established Member

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  16. CdBrux

    CdBrux Member

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    isn't ther a more southern route being looked essentially between Luton and Stevenage?
    Advantages:
    * connects two large centres of population, not currently connected - creating much more demand for that section alone
    * shorter distance new build - although maybe more expensive / km
    Disadvantages:
    * Longer time Oxford / Cambridge
    * Misses Bedford from through route
    * more interference with MML / ECML
     
  17. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    Edited for you...

     
  18. Blamethrower

    Blamethrower Member

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    I think a dual carriageway between Luton and Hitchin/A1 is more required than a railway link that will clog up the mainlines and destroy housing in quite densely populated areas.

    The goal is to get from Oxford to Cambridge. There really is only 1 route it can take from Bedford
     
  19. WestCountry

    WestCountry Member

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    While it might be useful in its own right - Stevenage-Luton-MK (and connections for the Midlands/North) is probably a large market - it would be ridiculously circuitous as a route to Cambridge and beyond.

    Re. the 'cabbageway' - remember that it was built on an existing (mothballed) railway alignment, so isn't really 'brand new'. Of course, it's now occupying both of the previous rail routes through the city to the west that EWR would probably want to use... :roll:
     
  20. CdBrux

    CdBrux Member

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    Don't disagree - I would be surprised if once the costs & benefits are better understood that this would feature anywhere near the top of a priority list for potential rail investments accross the country.

    Of the two options I outlined then one will not gain enough use on the new build section for local journeys and the other will not be sufficiently attractive for Longer distance journeys. I would think to have any hope of being built then it would need to fulfill both criteria.

    Isn't a report due sometime on these alternatives? We'll then see how right or otherwise we are.
     
  21. Blamethrower

    Blamethrower Member

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    Agreed, really want to see it as they've been so quiet for so long. However, linking the varsity cities appears to have legs politically so I'm hopeful for a resolution that suits us all.

    Thing is, before this even happens, they'll have to find a way of closing all the crossings on the Marston Vale line
     
  22. Pigeon

    Pigeon Member

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    Bang on. [​IMG]

    [​IMG] Something weird here... The cabbageway is the new A421 between M1 J13 and the Black Cat roundabout, of which the Bedford southern bypass is a part. It was all brand new construction and does not occupy any railway alignments.

    Are you getting mixed up with the guided bus thing in Cambridge?

    I don't see how this helps much. It already is dual nearly all the way. The only single sections are between Cambourne and St Neots, and from M1 J13 into Milton Keynes. The latter is not relevant to any railway plans, and the former is not a large proportion.

    [​IMG]

    That would be an excellent idea, but how are you going to get there from the MML north of Bedford? AFAICS it would require a tunnel under Manton Heights or else go a long way round and still need a fair bit of earthwork.

    Only Bedford-Sandy was single track, and it is a wide formation, mostly already with room for two tracks. Sandy-Cambridge was double track. Very little of it has been built on, and since we are looking at some new construction whatever happens, that is not important. I don't regard its use as a path as an obstacle: I regard the use of old railway lines as paths as a means of helping to safeguard them for future railway use.

    AIUI none of the options which involve the MML south of Bedford, or the ECML, are much good because of lack of line capacity - or so it is said, though I'm not sure how true it is with not all Thameslink services running north of Luton.

    Let us get radical, and address not only the level crossings on the Marston Vale line and the awkward location of Bedford Midland, but also the even more awkward location of Milton Keynes Central, to call at which requires far more fiddling around than Midland since it is so much further off the route.

    We reopen the Bedford-Northampton route, which would be a good idea in any case to facilitate journeys from the MML south of Bedford to Northampton, Birmingham and destinations in that direction. Such journeys are, indeed, currently possible even without the East-West link, but they are painfully slow and awkward as a result of going a long way round, the slowness of the Marston Vale line and the messing around changing at Bletchley and often MK as well depending on destination. EW would speed up the Marston Vale section but it still wouldn't be a very good route.

    Then we build a link from the WCML at Wolverton along the Ouse Valley to Olney, with a station at Newport Pagnell and cutting through the ridge from there to Gayhurst. And then we reopen the Bedford-Sandy-Cambridge route.

    Now there is a straightforward route for EW trains to run via MKC and Bedford Midland without any reversals and providing both those stations with a proper service, and we have also bypassed all the level crossings. Bingo! :D
     
  23. A0wen

    A0wen Established Member

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    The A505 is largely dual carriageway already - it's only the final section into Hitchin which isn't. Ideally they'd build a link road from the Wymondley by-pass near St Ippolyts to join it - but the people of Gosmore and Charlton won't be happy.

    Yes, quite agree. The MML from Bedford - Luton is already at or near capacity and any remaining capacity will have demands from further up the MML once that's electrified. Trying to shoe-horn E-W to run via Luton & Stevenage is madness, notwithstanding the fact the Luton-Stevenage link does not and has never existed.

    I'm still surprised that in the short term they haven't revisited the option of running from Bedford - Peterborough. The Corby line will have capacity once dualled and re-signalled and the only 'new' track needed would be the south curve at Manton Junction.
     
  24. Pigeon

    Pigeon Member

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    It would turn a journey of 20 miles odd into something over 100. It would certainly be useful for making connections at Peterborough to head north, but as a route from Bedford to Cambridge it's so long it has very little advantage over what's available already.
     
  25. Blamethrower

    Blamethrower Member

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    No chance, you'd want to ruin the wonderful great ouse valley and then build an entirely new railway to Bedford AND Cambridge, crossing the fast lines north of Bedford too, creating more conflicts.

    I think you are missing the point. The traffic pinch points on the a421/428 are the main causes of traffic, these are St Neots/A1 and the black cat roundabout. This upgrade IS happening, it's a fact, there's no point in denying it. Collaborating and running a new line alongside the new formation keeps local planning objections to a minimum. How can you not see this? Or are you being deliberately obtuse?

    yes a station in the north of bedford would be difficult, but we don't do things because they're easy do we? we do them because they're complicated, challenge us and bring a service improvement across the board.

    crossrail is pretty difficult isn't it? needs quite a bit of tunneling doesn't it?
     
  26. Pigeon

    Pigeon Member

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    I may be missing the point, but I am not being deliberately obtuse, nor am I trying to deny that the upgrade is happening. I simply don't see that a minor "soft" advantage relating to one section of a possible route is enough to compensate for the "hard" disadvantages of the rest of that possible route.

    Deliberately doing something because it's difficult may be a justification for building a ship in a bottle, but it isn't the way to do a national infrastructure project, especially for one where the political support leaves something to be desired and where the reason it hasn't happened yet is down to whining about the money to overcome the difficulties. Indeed, your own arguments are about making things easier, and you objected to the idea of making a decent non-reversing interchange at Bedford Midland on the grounds that it's too difficult.

    Crossrail is not comparable: being in London the only way to do anything at all is by tunnelling, and the way all transport links in London are choking themselves to death and the place will stop functioning if something major isn't done provides the political will to support it despite the expense. East-West is all about struggling with the lack of comparable political support and will to spend the money. Which sucks, but we are where we are.
     
  27. richieb1971

    richieb1971 Member

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    Too many experts whining why other peoples ideas are rubbish without proposing their own ideological plan that can be rubbished back.

    If you are going to rubbish someones idea, then please at least give your own favourable account. Instead of saying "conflict blah blah, too difficult blah blah, going to be expensive blah blah, going the long route blah blah".

    The quickest route is going to ruin someones view. The longest view will always be more expensive and literally anything we propose is going to have an alternative opinion.

    If you starve a project of its oxygen it will dither and die and just about everyone on here is doing exactly that.. Even the EWR is a waste of space.. No commitment, no desire, no balls. Anything once proposed "railway wise" in Bedfordshire has stalled. Its so frustrating.

    I hope someone at power googles this and realizes how weak they are.


    Lets see -

    1) Wixams station - Stalled.. nothing happening
    2) EWR - No route committed - Stalled.. nothing happening
    3) Bedford Midland station refurb/upgrade - Stalled.. nothing happening

    The EWR is taking 2 years to build a small link between Bicester and Oxford.. My mind boggles. The Chinese would be on HS3 by now, let alone HS2.
     
  28. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    Consultation has started and public meetings are to be held with local communities in my area over the next few months
     
  29. L&Y Robert

    L&Y Robert Member

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    My post no.13 is a reasoned alternative; and it has balls:-

    "If the Country can afford to build a whole new carriageway, why can't it afford to build a whole new railway? Never mind this route and that route and the round-the-houses route - just build a nice new railway, as if it were a nice new carriageway, and then put rails on it. Same philosophy, different hardware. Voila! Problem solved".
     
  30. HilversumNS

    HilversumNS Member

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    Isn't that what HS2 is? And we're at least 10 years and £50b away from that at the moment. And then there is phase 2 .......
     
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