A Varsity U-turn
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.
[…] 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.