Cambridge to Oxford rail link confirmed (sort of)

And it'll go via Cambourne, not Bassingbourn

Cambridge to Oxford – East West Rail's map of proposed route E.

The government, via the East West Rail Company (EWRC) and transport secretary Grant Shapps, has announced its preferred route as part of the third and final stage of the East-West Cambridge to Oxford rail link.

Cambridge to Oxford – East West Rail's map of proposed route E.

Cambridge to Oxford – East West Rail’s map of proposed route E.

Crucially, it will go via Cambourne and not Bassingbourn to link existing stations in Cambridge and Bedford with new stations in Cambourne and either Tempsford or St Neots – even though at £3.4bn it was the most expensive of the five options considered.

Although not yet the end of the story, the news will lead to the government making a final decision on whether to take this project forward and to make an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO).  No date has been given for this – or when work might start, so it’s all still several years away but a relief to know Hatley is likely to remain a peaceful backwater, even though the new line might be not so far away (from EWRC’s Technical Report on it’s 11 options, January 2019):

Route E: Bedford Midland – Tempsford area / South of St Neots – Cambourne – Cambridge: EWR could continue along the Marston Vale Line and provide an interchange with the Midland Main Line via the existing Bedford Midland station.

The route could then diverge from the Midland Main Line to the north of Bedford and provide an interchange with the East Coast Main Line via a new station in the broad areas around Tempsford or to the south of St Neots.

The route could then run north-eastwards to a potential new station around Cambourne, before heading south-eastwards between Little Eversden and Comberton and connecting to the West Anglia Main Line into Cambridge slightly to the north or south of Great Shelford.

Simon Blanchflower, chief executive of EWRC, said: “Of the five route options we consulted on, people were really positive about the one we’ve chosen – ‘Route E’, running from Cambridge to Bedford via Cambourne and south of St Neots / Tempsford.”

He added it was chosen following detailed analysis which found:

  • 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 EWRC’s 2019 consultation.
  • It would deliver the best opportunities for supporting and enhancing the environment.

This latter point has been welcomed by South Cambridgeshire District Council, whose spokesman said: “We are pleased and relieved that an announcement has finally been made on the route and we are supportive of the decision to run the new line via Cambourne.

“We were told one of the key factors in determining the route was the environmental opportunities this option offers. Any project of this size has an impact, but overall it will offer huge scope for environmental enhancements, much of which be in South Cambridgeshire.

“The decision on whether this will be an electrified line has not yet been made but we are told it will be a net zero carbon railway – exactly what we would want as we move towards being a zero carbon district by 2050.”

Anthony Browne, our MP, said: “I am delighted that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that East West Rail will pass through Cambourne, which I have been campaigning for.  This will make it easier for people there to get into Cambridge, and saves Bassingbourn.”

Heather Williams, our District Councillor, had this to say: “A station at Cambourne was always the most sensible option – it will be a great benefit in that area as opposed to Bassingbourn.  Many have worked incredibly hard to achieve this across the political and non-political spectrum: I am extremely pleased with the outcome.”

Sebastian Kindersley, our County Councillor and a member of Cam Bed Rail Road (CBRR), e-mailed this comment to us: “CBRR is biding its time before making any very enormous pronouncements as we don’t believe the route chosen is environmentally better than our own.  That being the case we need time to absorb all the stuff EWR has posted up.  However, not-Bassingbourn is a good start.”

Post created 30th January 2020; updated 8th February 2020.