die belebende Bedenkung

A Varsity U-turn

with 8 comments

In their February 2009 Discussion Paper, the East West Rail consortium’s consultants, Steer Davies Gleave, put forward nonsensical ideas for an Oxford — Cambridge rail link, and dismissed the idea of restoring a route on the Sandy corridor.

[SDG, 2009]

[…] Consideration was also given to a direct route from Bedford generally routeing via Sandy and across country to Cambridge. This route would require an additional 20 miles of new alignment east of Sandy. The additional cost of this would very high, more than doubling the cost and deliverability challenges of any other route. Although the direct journey time to Cambridge would be the shortest, the passenger interchange opportunities with the East Coast Main Line corridor would be significantly reduced, effecting the overall demand and viability of the business case. In addition, this route would just duplicate the existing Hitchin – Cambridge line some 8 – 10 miles to the south. This route was not pursued further as it was considered undeliverable predominantly on cost grounds

On 25 March 2013, the Beleben blog noted that ‘SDG seem to have completely failed to grasp the issues, and their cost and deliverability assessments are wrong‘.

Lo and behold, on 29 March 2016, came a statement from Network Rail.

[Network Rail, 2016-03-29]

The Bedford – Sandy – Cambridge corridor is today announced as the preferred option for the Central Section of East West Rail.
Network Rail will publish written documentation, analysis and evidence supporting the decision in May.
Once the methodology behind the Bedford – Sandy – Cambridge corridor is published in May, further analysis and consultation will take place to determine options for the ‘line on a map’ route.
The development work undertaken by Network Rail will allow the central section scheme to demonstrate a solid evidence-base to be put forward for consideration for investment as part of the rail industry’s long-term planning process.

SDG’s February 2009 discussion paper appears to have (been) “disappeared” from the EWR website.

But having finally “sobered up”, East West Rail now faces a new threat. On 16 March 2016, chancellor George Osborne asked the National Infrastructure Commission to study “A plan for unlocking growth, housing and jobs in the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor”.

The “interim chair” of the NIC is Andrew Adonis.

Written by beleben

April 6, 2016 at 8:45 am

Posted in England, Politics, Railways

8 Responses

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  1. ‘effected’ (sic) perhaps not fully proof read? Very clearly a better route given that the line to St Ives kept the wayleave intact well after the long gone route to Hitchin, and this tracks the A428 corridor where potential local traffic may well transfer for Bedford-Cambridge commuting.

    An incidental benefit is the facility to have a blockade on Hitchin-Cambridge with an alternative ready to hand, and possibly an acceptable route for blockades on Ely-Peterborough, so that more generous engineering windows will be available.

    Dave H (@BCCletts)

    April 6, 2016 at 9:53 am

  2. Whether you like it or not, the current political establishment is happy to spend lots of money on new rail infrastructure, far more than the government at the time of this report’s publication. Therefore, what one regards to be ‘undeliverable’ due to cost may well have changed in the meantime. Part of the case for building the line via Sandy and not Hitchin is that it could enable more housing. Instead of simply being able to build housing along the Hitchin line, it would be possible to build this as well as housing on the new line via Sandy.

    The ECML interchange issue has been somewhat resolved by the fact that not long after this new line would open, so would HS2 Phase 2 and so it would be possible to re-cast the ECML timetable to add interchange calls at Sandy. In 2009, the idea that long distance ECML services could be stopped for the sake of a few interchange passengers at a small commuter town halt would be absurd. If the ECML services will no longer be used for long distance passengers to London, then the idea of making a call specifically for EWR interchange is actually extremely sensible. The benefits it would bring would more than outweigh the costs to the small number of people disadvantaged by only a few minutes by making that extra call.


    April 18, 2016 at 12:04 am

    • “If the ECML services will no longer be used for long distance passengers to London”

      An absurd idea. The value of Varsity Line reopening for long distance travel from Edinburgh or Newcastle upon Tyne, to Cambridge or Oxford (etc) should be obvious.


      April 18, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      • Yes, direct services could well happen, enabled by the fact that fast line capacity on the southern ECML will no longer be necessary for long distance London travellers. Indeed, EWR and HS2 complement each other very well despite the fact that the two will literally cross one another at right angles without an interchange station. The WCML services which provide the connectivity between Manchester and Milton Keynes, for instance, could head west towards Oxford rather than towards Euston, leaving space on the line for the people making shorter distance commutes while enabling brand new direct connections. One Leeds and one Edinburgh service an hour on the ECML could run to Cambridge and East Anglia or alternatively along EWR onto the GWML.


        April 18, 2016 at 10:03 pm

      • Between London and Leeds, HS2 would serve not a single destination currently served by the current Inter City East Coast operator. So, fast line capacity on the southern ECML is and would be necessary for long distance travellers going to those places, from London and elsewhere. And the idea of running regular service trains from East Coast onto the Varsity line, is ludicrous.

        What you’ve been posting – not just on this article – is utter nonsense. But this is not the place for it. I suggest you send your opinions to ‘Rail’ magazine, or put them on your own website.


        April 19, 2016 at 11:28 am

      • What major destinations are there between London and Leeds? Look at a map of the UK’s towns and cities and you’ll notice that there isn’t a vast amount. The current ICEC calls south of Leeds are Doncaster, Retford, Newark North Gate, Grantham, Peterborough and Stevenage. Do these locations alone require the entire ECML fast line capacity upon the implementation of a less inconsistent stopping pattern? No. A 4tph service run with full-length IEP trains would be more than sufficient for these places, especially when many of their passengers come from the wider area and so could choose to use HS2 services from South Yorkshire and the East Midlands instead.


        April 19, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      • Where has my post gone?

        [Comment by Beleben:] To the letters page of ‘Rail’ magazine, hopefully. You’ve posted way too much evidence-free guff on the Beleben blog, as it is.

        I’ve outlined that between London and Leeds the residual ICEC demand to London could be satisfied with only a few TPH, therefore there would be paths available for a handful of services to continue onto EWR. An EWR service would be just as successful as a London service at getting people from Newcastle to Peterborough, and may be more so if it allows many more people to make easier journeys by rail than before.

        Interchanges at a Sandy station are likewise useful as they would cause more people to make journeys than the slight slowdown in journey times to London would turn away.


        April 20, 2016 at 1:23 am

      • Beleben, the planned ICEC service after HS2 Phase 2 opens is 4tph to Lincoln, Leeds, Newcastle and Scotland. That ties in pretty well with my argument that the remaining stations on the ECML not served by HS2 will only need a 4tph service. All those extra paths will be available for some other use, so why not send them to the EWR line?


        April 20, 2016 at 2:52 pm

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