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Project : East west rail - Oxford to Cambridge

Article date 31 January 2010
Revised 29 February 2016

East West rail (Oxford to Cambridge) : earlier version

This article represents earlier thinking.

There is discussion concerning a suitable route for a railway line between Oxford and Cambridge. For a route via London, passengers from Oxford travel to Paddington, taking a train from King's Cross or Liverpool Street to arrive at Cambridge. With "Evergreen 3" proposals by Chiltern Railways, there will also be a route from Oxford to Marylebone via Bicester.

However, the focus of discussion is on a route serving towns in the Oxford to Cambridge arc, i.e. not via London. This discussion is being promoted by the East West Rail Consortium. To date, two proposals have been given prolonged consideration. The first of these is a route via Luton and Stevenage. A train from Oxford via Bicester and Bletchley would branch off the Bletchley to Bedford line to connect southwards onto the Midland Main Line to Luton, then on an easterly orientation to Stevenage, then connect northwards onto the East Coast Main Line (ECML) and then via Hitchin to Cambridge. This proposal suffers the potential drawback of violating the Short Hop Principle (article TBA), (that is, of limiting the capacity on a lengthy railway line for the convenience of services that wish to use solely a brief portion of the line) by requiring paths (space/time slots) on both the Midland Main Line and the East Coast Main Line (ECML). The second proposal is a route via Sandy on the ECML. A train from Oxford via Bicester, Bletchley and Bedford would run eastbound by re-opening of the former line to Sandy, then southbound on the ECML, then branch off the ECML onto the line from Hitchin to Cambridge. This proposal also suffers the potential drawback of violating the Short Hop Principle by requiring paths (space/time slots) on the ECML. It would also be disruptive at Sandy.

We would like to suggest the following :
(i) A possible line from Bletchley to St Neots on the ECML, making use of the line from Bletchley towards Bedford and branching off on a north eastern orientation to connect onto the ECML and thence to St Neots. This line would be designed for regional services, as also freight, not to connect Oxford to Cambridge. A route for passengers between Oxford and Cambridge might be to change at Peterborough.
(ii) Following on from this, the case for a direct line to Cambridge could be considered, however, with a difference from discussions that have taken place to date. Specifically, with services from Oxford to the ECML enabled by the line proposed as (i) above, the direct line to Cambridge - if satisfying a business case evaluation - would do no more than cross the ECML by means of a bridge, that is, we suggest there would be no requirement for an interchange station at the point where the ECML was crossed. This, then, would provide flexibility in terms of selecting an on-the-ground alignment. There would no longer be any requirement to route the line via Sandy.

This is option B in the article that supersedes this article : East West rail (Oxford to Cambridge) : our proposals in 2016


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