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East West rail, Bletchley to oxford line


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Services beyond the ends have been in and out of the plans, and TBH I have no idea where they sit now. About two years ago, I heard their leading lights expressing doubts about such things, because they were worried about the service becoming too prone to disruption due minor perturbations - butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon stuff.

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Over the weekend the upright on the station side of Buckingham Road has gained some form of platform (it has yet to have safety rails attached by the look of it). The station is behind the structure. Pictures taken Tuesday 23 March.

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20210323_120112.jpg

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The worksite at Water Eaton Road shows the side walling for the box over the WCML. This view is looking East towards Bletchley town centre. Picture taken Tuesday 23 March.

20210323_115407.jpg

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13 hours ago, Nearholmer said:

I think there will probably be a few readers here who will recognise the scenes in the opening minutes of this film

Not just the opening minutes, all of it!  All the work going on at the time I joined BR. And almost all long gone within a lifetime.

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Every day on BBC Three Counties Radio during the travel reports they report that the trains between Bletchley and Bedford (and between Watford Junction and St. Albans Abbey) have replacement bus services due to shortage of train crews. This has been going on for months.

 

Checking on the West Midlands website this is the current situation for the next few trains (departure times from Bletchley shows). 

 

DepartsPlatformOperatorExpected

17:01   Bus   West Midlands Trains   On time   BOOK NOW

17:01   Bus   West Midlands Trains   On time   BOOK NOW

17:38   Bus   West Midlands Trains   On time   BOOK NOW

17:38   Bus   West Midlands Trains  On time    BOOK NOW

 

The whole reason for retaining the line  post closure of the Oxford - Bletchley and Bedford - Cambridge sections (from 1st January 1968) was the difficulty in serving the Marston Vale communities by bus. So to replace one train it takes two buses!

 

I appreciate that these are different and difficult times but the route is open and used by other trains. Hopefully they will still have some customers left when it does eventually return to a full timetable.

 

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The wall taking shape which is located behind the buildings in Duncombe Street. This will form part of the box over the West Coast Main Line. The two garages have now been vacated, Halfords moving to another site. Picture taken this afternoon.

20210327_161918.jpg

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Posted (edited)
18 minutes ago, Tony Teague said:

Not pretty!

No. Needs a mural on the side, maybe something like the houses that were painted on the side of Crewe Works, apparently in an attempt to disguise it from the attentions of the Luftwaffe. Not that there's much risk of it being bombed, but it might make it a bit easier on the eye.

(Though saying that, it probably won't be long before it attracts the attention of the local spray can artists!)

Edited by rodent279
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1 minute ago, stewartingram said:

Just wait for Cambs Council to put in a new proposal. Another Misguided Busway anyone?

 

You never were able to resist a dig at the Busway, were you Stewart? It seems to keep a fairly low profile, nowadays - presumably doing what it was intended to do; albeit with less panache than a railway.

 

At the end of the day the fault lay with the University, all those years ago, for blocking a railway station convenient to the city centre when the railway came to Cambridge.

 

John Isherwood.

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I agree that the line should never have closed. It was probably more due to dubious accounting on the part of BR that helped the closure. Counting passengers on the wrong day, not including through tickets, etc - all practices known to have happenned elsewhere as well. And the attitude of the time, nationally, was not to conserve old likes for future use, so we have to live with that I'm afraid. What does get to me though, is that if a new road were to be built, then demolition is par for the course if required - why can't this be re-worded to "if a new ROUTE for transort" instead of just road?

As for the busway, that comment was said in jest. However I have no feeling for its build, it should never have been built. It serves no useful function due its design. (I'm not saying the route isn't needed though). Grossly over-budget, a limited life expectancy, late being finished, and technically what does it achieve? A vanity project for the council is the only way it can be described.

 

Stewart

 

Just to add, although I'm totally opposed to the concept, I will openly admit to having used it on a few occasions, though I live 15 miles away from it. In my mind I see it as comparable to the modernisation of the Blackpool tramway, which would have given a much better option!

Edited by stewartingram
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Busways do seem to work well-enough in some places, and I don't know the "ins and outs" of the story of this one, so can't comment on it, but I would say that the Luton-Dunstable one seems to do a very effective job, and (I'll get in trouble now) is probably more effectively useful than reinstatement of the railway would have been, because buses can radiate from the ends in a way that might challenge trains or trams.

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2 hours ago, Nearholmer said:

....  is probably more effectively useful than reinstatement of the railway would have been, because buses can radiate from the ends in a way that might challenge trains or trams.

 

That is expecially pertinent in the case of Cambridge, where re-opening the St. Ives to Cambridge railway would have involved a change from rail to bus / taxi / long walk to get to the city centre.

 

John Isherwood.

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4 hours ago, stewartingram said:

I agree that the line should never have closed. It was probably more due to dubious accounting on the part of BR that helped the closure. Counting passengers on the wrong day, not including through tickets, etc - all practices known to have happenned elsewhere as well. And the attitude of the time, nationally, was not to conserve old likes for future use, so we have to live with that I'm afraid. What does get to me though, is that if a new road were to be built, then demolition is par for the course if required - why can't this be re-worded to "if a new ROUTE for transort" instead of just road?

As for the busway, that comment was said in jest. However I have no feeling for its build, it should never have been built. It serves no useful function due its design. (I'm not saying the route isn't needed though). Grossly over-budget, a limited life expectancy, late being finished, and technically what does it achieve? A vanity project for the council is the only way it can be described.

 

Stewart

 

Just to add, although I'm totally opposed to the concept, I will openly admit to having used it on a few occasions, though I live 15 miles away from it. In my mind I seeit as comparabe to the modernisation of the Blackpool tramway, which would have given a much better option!

 

I hear similar comments about many lines which I believe were a huge overhead for the services they provided & I can understand their closure.

I agree with you about this line though. It ran from Oxford to Cambridge, surely 2 important cities?

It went via Bedford too.

If Milton Keynes had been designed a little earlier, the line may have survived & the town would have taken on a different shape.

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On the times I have used the busway, the transit time to the effective end of it (the old A10 Milton Road LC) was good, but from there on useless. Though bus lanes are painted on the road, they are not really useful due to other traffic, parking etc. And on two occasions, the busway was partially closed, from Histon (station) inbound. In fact the "bustitution" route took us off at Histon, on the normal (old) road to exit the village at the Northern bypass roundabout, then back onto the busway via its 'Arbury branch' to get to Milton Road (LC)! From there it was the tortuous ride through to the town centre etc. On another occasion, the 'Arbury branch' was omitted, we went in along Histon Road/Gilbert Road & Mitchams Corner. Defeats the apparent reason for the busway really. I only used it for Addenbrookes Hospital appointments, avoiding the bad Cambridge traffic and high parking charges, although it involved a 15 mile drive to reach it from Chatteris. And tbh, I was in no particular rush.

Apologies to the non-locals who don't know the area I tried to describe.

Is there a long term fault with the Histon bypass bridge that caused the closure? It certainly looked overgrown when I was last there.

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34 minutes ago, stewartingram said:

On the times I have used the busway, the transit time to the effective end of it (the old A10 Milton Road LC) was good, but from there on useless.

 

I would refer my honourable friend to my previous comment - any rail-based, or other form of transport relying on an ex-rail formation, was permanently undermined by the location of Cambridge's railway station.

 

Cambs. CC was not responsible for that, it was the historic Nimbys of the University.

 

Read 'Rails to Cambridge'.

 

John Isherwood.

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On 29/03/2021 at 15:59, Pete the Elaner said:

 

I hear similar comments about many lines which I believe were a huge overhead for the services they provided & I can understand their closure.

I agree with you about this line though. It ran from Oxford to Cambridge, surely 2 important cities?

It went via Bedford too.

If Milton Keynes had been designed a little earlier, the line may have survived & the town would have taken on a different shape.

Possibly also a victim of inter - regional politics? The line, if it can be considered as a single entity, ran across the territory of three different railways (six, pre-grouping). Who actually operated the the services on it?

Edited by 62613
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I think that possibly perceptions and needs were different "back then". There was relatively little patronage of the line for cross-country trips, and that might have been because Oxford and Cambridge were much less of a draw for trips >10 or 15 miles than they are now. Both are really, even now, most strongly connected in an academic sense with London, and the number of students needing to travel cross-country on a frequent basis would definitely not have kept a railway in business. Cambridge in particular has changed hugely in terms of the non-university employment that it offers, and both places have grown.

 

Aylesbury was no draw either, and Buckingham was a ghost town, with possibly Bedford having been the busiest in an employment sense at the time the railway closed.

 

In a sense, the market that rail might now serves has been grown by car travel, and then the self-defeating character of car travel, whereby it creates congestion that makes it a PITA. The whole "busy-ness" of the corridor has changed hugely even in the c40 years I've lived here, and really a lot of that growth had been concentrated in perhaps the past 20 - 25 years.

 

 

Edited by Nearholmer
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This morning there was a webinaire(?) that I was able to look over the shoulder at. It was an outline of the prefered route

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The prefered options are 1 & 9

 

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IMG_1632.JPG.31f9b3e651ff65b7fcd404c9afa10ef4.JPG

IMG_1633.JPG.1af2140d7db74147c4aacfe0d1fdebd4.JPG

 

There was a comparison with going into Cambridge via the North, but it meant a greater number of properties would be required as well as 4+km on flood plain meaning viaducts.

I understand there is an announcement later today.

 

 

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I must declare an interest here.  A long time ago now I used to attend meetings of the East-West Rail Consortium as an observer for the Government Office for the East of England.  It is good to see that at long last some progress is being made but less so that in the Bedford area the BANANAs are out in force.  BANANA = Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.  I nurture the hope that I will live to see the first train over the section east of Bedford.  I am 73.

 

Chris

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On 31/03/2021 at 14:59, chrisf said:

I must declare an interest here.  A long time ago now I used to attend meetings of the East-West Rail Consortium as an observer for the Government Office for the East of England.  It is good to see that at long last some progress is being made but less so that in the Bedford area the BANANAs are out in force.  BANANA = Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.  I nurture the hope that I will live to see the first train over the section east of Bedford.  I am 73.

 

Chris

 

Live long and prosper!

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