die belebende Bedenkung

Varsity versus HS2

with 3 comments

Restoring the Oxford - Cambridge and Bedford - Northampton rail links would improve east - west connectivity in south central England

The Liberal Democrats have made an election pledge to re-build the rail line between Bedford and Cambridge and develop Garden Cities along the Varsity route, ITV Anglia reported (6 October 2014). The Bedford to Cambridge stretch, “estimated to cost up to £1 billion, will start only once the deficit has been cleared”.

Restoring Bedford to Cambridge is likely to cost considerably more than “£1 billion”, but compared to HS2, the outlays are modest. Indeed, the party’s enthusiasm for the £50 billion HS2 scheme (which would release little capacity, and link places which are already well connected by rail) is difficult to understand. It would be better to scrap HS2 and adopt a dispersed investment strategy — with some of the money redirected to east to west rail connectivity in south central England.

Written by beleben

October 7, 2014 at 11:53 am

Posted in HS2, Politics

Tagged with , ,

3 Responses

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  1. What is the source of the map.

    The old Bedford – Cambridge route cannot be reinstated easily. Why flog a dead horse? It would be very much cheaper and far less disruptive to provide a link between the MML near Harlington and ECML near Baldock so as to use the existing line from there to Cambridge.


    October 7, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    • The map was created for an earlier Beleben blogpost on connectivity gaps. I do not know what Varsity route option is attached to the Liberal Democrats “Garden Cities” proposal.

      From my standpoint, any ‘Varsity replacement’ should (a) allow for passenger interchange with the principal north – south lines, and (b) not result in reduced capacity on those lines.

      The route you suggested could meet those objectives, and would, no doubt, be much less expensive than East_of_Bedford_Restoration.

      It comes down to whether it is worth spending additional money to permit

      – ‘as fast as possible’ journeys such as Edinburgh to Cambridge with one change at Sandy, or

      – Birmingham to Cambridge direct in ~2 hours (with Northampton – Bedford reactivated)

      – direct railfreight e.g. Felixstowe – Cambridge – Bedford – Northampton – Daventry.


      October 7, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    • First of all, this is an excellent blog with opinions which I very much share. To reply to Johnma’s post, Harlington-Baldock would no doubt be much cheaper but it would not be half as beneficial as a reinstated Bedford/Sandy, then Sandy/St Neots/Cambridge line. The reason is quite simple: any new line has to provide direct connections via Bedford to take advantage of the connections north and east. A roundabout route via the already busy MML/ECML coupled with a rural link serving no substantial community is not only going to add to journey times but deprive rail users of useful connections all for a miserly saving. I have walked the Bedford/Sandy formation and it is good as far as Girtford Halt. What needs to be found is a way through or around Sandy to the north. From there, onwards to Cambridge via St Neots and Camborne (perhaps following the line of the A428) should be relatively straightforward.

      I would also agree with scrapping HS2. Quite how they think that rail passengers will pay premium fares to use parkway stations when more direct options exist for miniscule journey time differences is beyond me. A proper north-south rail freight line is needed so that other routes are relieved for passenger traffic (not the reverse!).


      October 15, 2014 at 7:51 am

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