Last Thursday (30 January) the East West Rail Company announced the preferred route of the new railway from Bedford to Cambridge. The announcement for the central ‘missing link’ section follows on from a public consultation in 2019. The route is via Bedford Midland station which would require some modifications. Then the route is around the north of Bedford to the East Coast Main Line (ECML) around Tempsford, south of St Neots but north of Sandy where a new station would be constructed. As yet it is not clear whether there would be a physical connection to the ECML or a more simple two level station – like the arrangement at Tamworth.
The East West Rail route would then run to the south of the A428 towards Cambourne where another new station would be constructed. From Cambourne the line would approach Cambridge from the south probably via a third new station at Cambridge South.
Plans for a Cambridge South station to serve Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the biomedical campus are further advanced as it will be located on the existing route from Cambridge to London King’s Cross and Liverpool Street. The additional EWR trains may require grade separation of Shepreth Branch Junction on what is already a busy section of railway. Connections to Stansted Airport could be made here without having to travel to the existing central Cambridge station. Approaching from the south offers better onward connections beyond Cambridge to Ipswich and Norwich.
Interestingly this now-preferred option was not the initial favourite but offers better connectivity particularly at Bedford where trains will run through the existing Midland station rather than a future station at Bedford South / Wixams.
Overall this is the option I favoured when responding to the consultation. The earlier favoured option via Bedford South, Sandy and Bassingbourn was cheaper.
This now-preferred route option was chosen following detailed analysis because:
- It would deliver the best value for taxpayers, returning the most benefit for every £ spent
- It was the most popular option with people who responded to EWR Co’s 2019 consultation
- It would deliver the best opportunities for supporting and enhancing the environment.
This announcement will lead to the Government making a final decision on whether to take the Central Section project forward, and to make an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) in due course.
Meanwhile work on the Phase 2 of the Western Section appears to have increased in the last month. A final decision on the Transport and Works Act Order authorising certain parts of the Western Section Phase 2 between Bicester and Bedford is expected in the next few days.