Posted 21st January 2019 | 4 Comments

East West Rail seeks partners to develop Cambridge link

THE East West Rail Company, which is developing the line between Oxford and Cambridge, is seeking delivery partners to help with the ‘Central Section’, which is the long-abandoned line between Bedford and Cambridge and set to be opened in the 2020s.

The Cambridge link, previously seen as a longer-term goal, will need a new route because the old alignment has been blocked. However, it was given a boost in the Budget, which allocated £20 million to fund a Strategic Outline Business Case.

Companies with appropriate skills, including project management, are being invited to register their interest. A session to discuss their offers and suggestions will be held during February.

Most of the Western Section between Oxford and Bedford is already open, with the exception of the line between Bicester and Bletchley. This was never lifted, although it has been out of use for some time.

Other longer-term plans include extensions of services both east and west, so that the eventual termini of EWR trains could be Bristol and Norwich.

EWR chief executive Simon Blanchflower said: ‘We want to hear from organisations with wide-ranging expertise and experience, who want to work with East West Rail to drive this crucial infrastructure project forward. It’s a unique opportunity to be involved in shaping the project from the outset.

‘This is not the “same old” approach – we want to build lasting partnerships and a motivated supply chain who will together help us deliver this exciting new railway line. Today we are kicking off genuine engagement with the market – not just briefing them on our plans but listening to them about how we can best unlock their expertise to support our project. We are determined to learn the lessons of the past and harness new innovations for the future.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • david c smith, Bletchley

    Like Chris, and as an inhabitant of Bletchley, I've become so fed up with some two decades of prevarication on this project, with endless talk and no physical progress "on the ground", until very recently. I hope services start rolling before I get too old to use them !

    One good thing about Dr Beeching , mainly remembered for service closures, was his realisation that the raiilway should concentrate on what it is best at, rather than trying to be a general carrier. Applied to EWR, it would seem we should put priority on longer distance freight and passengers, typically from Oxford , south Wales, Bristol,etc. to Cambridge and East Anglia , with local movements taking lower priority.

    With this approach, a solution to the Central Section might be to take a new direct alignment from around Lidlington( half way between Bletchley and Bedford) to a point on the Hitchin - Cambrige line around Ashwell , which should be cheaper and shorter than other proposals. Bedford's route to the East would be somewhat longer ( via a trianular junction at Lidlington), but overall costs should be appreciably reduced.

  • John Harper, Kelso

    I hope they don't forget the potential of the route to be a London by-pass, Bristol and Cardiff could be linked via Oxford and Cambridge to Stanstead. Another route with great potential is to re-connect Stratford on Avon to the Cotswold line providing Moor St to Heathrow via the West Airlink, tourists will like it plus Moor St will be better for HS2

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    What becomes disheartening regarding this project is the timescale required to bring it to fruition. Considering that between Oxford & Bedford the existing infrastructure to be upgraded is either operational or mothballed it is disappointing that to date only the section between Bicester & Oxford has been completed. Considering there were great expectations that upgrades would have been completed during the current control period this is very disappointing & even more so the way the project has been descoped deleting electrification & freight capacity.

    Bedford to Cambridge was always going to be a bigger ask but Oxford/Aylesbury to Milton Keynes/Bedford have so much potential especially when synergies with existing networks such as Cross Country, Chiltern & London North Western are considered.

  • Andrew Gwilt , Benfleet Essex

    I should think it will definitely get the go ahead. I think it will probably bypass Sandy with possibly a new railway station to be built in Sandy or near Sandy when the East-West Rail Link is completed either on time or late.