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Oxcalo rail connectivity, part two

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Part one

Poor travel links hinder south east England’s competitiveness with Silicon Valley, according to Cambridge-based entrepreneurs.

[“Poor travel links ‘stop UK tech competing with Silicon Valley'”, Samuel Gibbs, The Guardian, 1 December 2014]

A report commissioned by the Cambridge-based entrepreneurs, which includes the UK semiconductor industry founder Hermann Hauser, angel investor Sherry Coutu, biotechnology head Andy Richards and telecoms businessman David Cleevely, claims that poor infrastructure connecting the south-east region is holding Boris Johnson’s golden triangle vision back.

The Oxford - Bletchley - Bedford - Sandy - Cambridge through route was not considered worth keeping in the 1960s

The Oxford – Bletchley – Bedford – Sandy – Cambridge through route was not considered worth keeping in the 1960s

Written by beleben

December 2, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Varsity versus HS2

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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 , ,

Oxbridging the gap

with 6 comments

Transport links between the eastern and western sides of England tend not to receive much attention in the media, but the idea of a motorway between Oxford and Cambridge was a recent exception. However, there is another way of enhancing transport on the Oxbridge axis, with a much lower environmental impact.

Varsity Line
Varsity Line, showing relatively intact western section (green), abandoned eastern section (red), alternate route using existing track (grey). Based on Open Street Map CC-SA 2.0 licence.

London does not have any equivalent of the distributor ring railways of Berlin and Paris, and as a result, there is presently no possibility of providing an efficient east-to-west rail conduit in south central England. The railway network in London itself is heavily used, and could not take on such a role.

Although it wasn’t listed for closure in Beeching’s Reshaping report, the Varsity Line (Oxford to Cambridge railway) was severed in 1968, and the section east of Bletchley Bedford [see below], completely abandoned. Re-use of former railway land along the eastern section has added to the complexity of restoring an Oxbridge link, and no meaningful progress has been made. But a restored Varsity Line has significant potential for passengers, and as a freight route for the Haven ports.

The East-West rail consortium has proposed bridging the eastern gap by using the East Coast Main Line (ECML) from Sandy to Hitchin, where a curve would take trains onto the existing London to Cambridge railway. Apart from being considerably longer, this route conflicts with existing traffic, especially on the ECML.

The more expensive option is to reconstruct a direct railway following the pre-1968 corridor. This would avoid conflicts with traffic on existing lines, and the shorter route facilitates lower carbon emissions from freight movements. The journey time for passenger services between Oxford, Bletchley, Bedford, Sandy, and Cambridge can be competitive with private cars.