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East West rail, Bletchley to oxford line


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Here are a couple of news items from the Bedford Independent.

 

When EWR started it was proposed as a standalone project that didn't utilise existing infrastructure, but added more capacity. Now it seems that to go through Bedford Midland the proposal for 6 lines north of the station could be accomodated on just 4 which appeases the voters as less compulsory purchases of properties are needed as well as not re-building Bromham road Bridge which is less than 18 months old.

https://www.bedfordindependent.co.uk/no-need-to-demolish-poets-homes-says-rail-consultants-report-into-east-west-rail/

 

The Beds Borough 2040 Local plan is in consultation at present, Page 19 suggests a new station to the North of Bedford on EWR which has never been mentioned before (it was supposed to be a fast route)

https://edrms.bedford.gov.uk/OpenDocument.aspx?id=0oGrcg%2bElvEgGZR6su3cQA%3d%3d&name=Issues and Options Paper.pdf

 

What I saw before but now cannot find is the planned interchange at Tempsford. This showed a very defined interchange area and the provision of 4000-6000 in Beds Borough. What it doesn't mention is that it is the Boundary between Beds Borough and Central Bedfordshire and CBC have a proposal for 6000 houses in the same area as part of their plan.

 

I'll try and find them when I finish work.

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And there was me thinking all they had to do was fettle the track a bit and start running trains!!!

I must admit that the scale of some of the new works surprises me, even though I had an idea of the state of the infrastructure.

And in the area where EWR is close to HS2, I wonder how many of the locals know which is which when they cause disruption to roads etc.

Jonathan

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Just now, corneliuslundie said:

I must admit that the scale of some of the new works surprises me,

 

Likewise. I don't think I've ever seen so much dirt being shifted about outside of HS1.

 

They are either doing a very thorough job, or doing an OTT job, but they certainly are not under-cooking it!

 

The danger is that they are indeed going OTT, and that will be  a nail in the coffin of future re-openings, by pushing costs beyond those justifiable by the benefits realised. OTOH, it may be that a lot of what we are seeing is as much to do with enabling the urbanisation of North Bucks as it is to do with reopening a railway.

 

At a personal level, I'm beginning to wonder if the railway reopening that I've looked forward to eagerly for 30+ years might fall into the "be careful what you wish for" bracket, as all my favoured cycling districts disappear under tarmac and "executive" housing!

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In reality, East West Rail is a completely new railway built from scratch, but using existing, disused railway land, with minimal extra land take involved.

 

Rather than OTT, it should be being built to suitable high standards to allow for upgrades and potential increased usage in future years.

Whatever the NIMBY's and other doubters think, there are going to be something like another million residents living in that corridor, within a few more decades.

 

 

.

 

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7 minutes ago, Ron Ron Ron said:

Whatever the NIMBY's and other doubters think, there are going to be something like another million residents living in that corridor, within a few more decades.

 


Speaking as someone who might not quite be a NIMBY, but certainly is shedding a tear for the loss of some landscape that has survived amazing undisturbrd for the past century, I think it’s the best argument I’ve seen yet for a levelling-out of the economy of England. 
 

It’s not just that particular area, but a vast swathe of what might be called ‘southern middle England’ or ‘northern southern England’ that is under massive house-building pressure - I’m genuinely amazed by the rate of house-building right across Northants, as well as in Beds and Bucks - while the northern parts of England are apparently scratching for investment and jobs.

 

Of course, at another level, I’m quite happy, because it seems to mean that my children are growing-up in boom-town, which ought to mean good job prospects.

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1 hour ago, Ron Ron Ron said:

In reality, East West Rail is a completely new railway built from scratch, but using existing, disused railway land, with minimal extra land take involved.

 

Rather than OTT, it should be being built to suitable high standards to allow for upgrades and potential increased usage in future years.

Whatever the NIMBY's and other doubters think, there are going to be something like another million residents living in that corridor, within a few more decades.

 

 

.

 

 

Unfortunately between Bedford and Cambridge the proposed route is all non railway land and is not minimal land take.  Instead of following the existing A421 corridor that has minimal elevation change, it is intended to go north of Bedford via the existing Bedford Midland station through a challenging landscape with several deep cuttings and high embankments and/or viaducts being required prior to crossing the ECML. This option in 2019 was the most expense proposed by EWR, but in 2020 revised figures made it the cheapest and DFT selected this as the preferred route option. However, despite numerous requests by both local people and the areas MP,  EWR has been unable to provide the costings for this route or why the North Bedford residents and those in the affected villages were not included in the 2019 consultation process.  Bedford Borough Council is supporting the northern route for its own political reasons. On the 28th June there is going to be a House of Commons adjournment debate on the EWR Route Selection Process by the Local MP (Richard Fuller).  

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Actually, I wonder whether there is overkill on  new house building nationally. The predictions are that the UK population will level out within a couple of decades thanks to falling birthrates (now I believe less than replacement rate) and an end to any increase in life expectancy (we wear out eventually whatever they try to do to prevent it). Part of recent increases in housing demand is because of a greater proportion of people not marrying and living in smaller "groups" (intentionally undefined). Since current government policy is to strictly control immigration, we could see the population dropping by the time all these planned estates are built. Except of course that house builders are far cleverer than politicians and will see this coming and cut back. Not that I am likely to be around to be proved right or wrong.

Jonathan

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3 hours ago, corneliuslundie said:

And there was me thinking all they had to do was fettle the track a bit and start running trains!!!

I must admit that the scale of some of the new works surprises me, even though I had an idea of the state of the infrastructure.

And in the area where EWR is close to HS2, I wonder how many of the locals know which is which when they cause disruption to roads etc.

Jonathan

I thought like that when the idea of reopening the route in the Scottish Borders was first discussed. Then I saw what was actually happening.  It seems to be impossible to fit a single line to modern standards into the land area occupied by an old double track line.

Bernard

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A couple of views from the station today. Viewed from the footsteps to Platform 6 (Platform 8 in old money!).

 

Work was on-going on completing the second section whilst safety barriers were fitted to the first section.

DSC_0164.JPG

DSC_0165.JPG

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Catching the train south allowed me the opportunity to photograph the box over the West Coast Main Line from the fence at the end of Platform 5. 

 

The second picture shows the back road into the station which is now part of the work site. The area where the lorry is standing was the former train crew car park when the booking on point was on Platform 6 (old platform 8). This all changed when new facilities were built on the site of the former Platforms 1 & 2 which had become bay plaforms when the current station building was built across them during the 1960s WCML modernisation scheme.

 

A large crane has arrived at the Duncombe Street compound in readiness for this weekends activities.

DSC_0020.JPG

DSC_0010.JPG

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5 hours ago, KCL said:

Unfortunately between Bedford and Cambridge the proposed route is all non railway land and is not minimal land take. ………


Apologies; I was really talking about west of Bletchley and not really thinking about Bedford to Cambridge at all.

 

.

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Oxford to Bedford is one type of project (the route never officially closed did it?), Bedford to Cambridge is another.

 

Both are essentially new railways, but the current bit of actually a major modernisation of an existing one.

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19 hours ago, Ron Ron Ron said:

In reality, East West Rail is a completely new railway built from scratch, but using existing, disused railway land, with minimal extra land take involved.

 

Rather than OTT, it should be being built to suitable high standards to allow for upgrades and potential increased usage in future years.

Whatever the NIMBY's and other doubters think, there are going to be something like another million residents living in that corridor, within a few more decades.

 

 

.

 

As is the case with a lot of proposed "reopenings."

A railway that has been closed for several decades, track, signalling & other infrastructure removed, bridges removed etc, cannot be reopened. Even if every last metre of the former route is used, it's not "reopening", it's building a new railway, but reusing lands that were previously in railway use.

Just because a scar across the Earth is visible in Google maps, that doesn't mean that a ready made railway is waiting to be reactivated. 

Edited by rodent279
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It was Ron Ron Ron's image at the top of this page and a few shots of very wide earthworks in one of the videos which made me realise just how much this is not just relaying the track and starting running trains. Though presumably there should be rather less work on the section which was never formally closed. I would hope for example that the bridges are still there, even if not up to re-use on a modern railway - though I did hear rumours of the metal fairies being in the area a few years ago.

And as was commented, it is really important that projects are not over-specified as this will make approval for future re-openings more difficult.

Jonathan

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The big issue has been drainage, which on the old infrastructure was both very important, and very neglected, which meant that all the cuttings were swamps, and one or two were small rivers. Then stability of the slopes, on both banks and cuttings, then bridges, which were in-situ, but in many cases either failed, too low in one respect or another. Plus, new or massively bigger bridges to enable house-building.

 

The original infrastructure was never really well-tended, even when it was open, because the route was commercially marginal from the day it opened - it was meant, in the 1850s, to ‘open up’ the district for trade, but that never really happened, it remained an incredibly quiet area given its proximity to London. The Met railway had a stab at suburbanising it c1900, and that didn’t work for various reasons.

 

About the only time the route became vital was during WW2, and the attempt to make it into an orbital freight line c1960 went nowhere.

 

So, although it never closed, exceptionally under-maintained.

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ISTR that when they re doubled partscof yhd Chiltern line, that there were some quite extensive earthworks to bring cuttings and particularly embankments  up to modern standards. As Nearholmer has pointed out maintenance was never the top priority.

 

Jamie

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1 hour ago, corneliuslundie said:

It was Ron Ron Ron's image at the top of this page...........presumably there should be rather less work on the section which was never formally closed.

 

 

But Ron Ron Ron's images are of that section!

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18 hours ago, Nearholmer said:


Speaking as someone who might not quite be a NIMBY, but certainly is shedding a tear for the loss of some landscape that has survived amazing undisturbrd for the past century, I think it’s the best argument I’ve seen yet for a levelling-out of the economy of England. 
 

It’s not just that particular area, but a vast swathe of what might be called ‘southern middle England’ or ‘northern southern England’ that is under massive house-building pressure - I’m genuinely amazed by the rate of house-building right across Northants, as well as in Beds and Bucks - while the northern parts of England are apparently scratching for investment and jobs.

 

Of course, at another level, I’m quite happy, because it seems to mean that my children are growing-up in boom-town, which ought to mean good job prospects.

I'm originally from the Bedford area but have been up in the North East of England for 30+ years. The rate of house building round here is also amazing. Genuine talk (and some action!) of reopening lines too.

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56 minutes ago, Tony Teague said:

It was Ron Ron Ron's image at the top of this page...........presumably there should be rather less work on the section which was never formally closed

 

The line between Bletchley and Claydon NE Junction was mothballed and although it gave the impression that it was abandoned and closed, it had never gone through the formal closure process* after it ceased to be used in the late 1980s. One of its main uses until mothballing was the movement of  the old DMUs from the Chiltern lines to and from Bletchley TMD for overnight servicing and also the Fertiliser Traffic to Akeman Street. This changed when the new Aylesbury Depot was opened in Network SouthEast days and the Speedlink freight network was withdrawn. My father was a Bletchley driver and often worked these trains before sectorisation, Bletchley became a NSE passenger depot and lost the freight work to other depots.

 

The section between Oxford and Bicester Town (now Village) was reopened by NSE  in conjunction with Oxfordshire County Council to passenger traffic on 11th May 1987. During the official opening the villagers of Islip protested that their station was not being reopened so we went back twelve motnhs later and did so. The line could have gone through to Bletchley but Buckinghamshire County Council did not have the same enthusiasm for reopening as its Oxfordshire neighbours!

 

The line east of Bicester remained in use for the Calvert waste trains initially from the Bristol area as far as Claydon NE Junction before taking the wartime (WW2) chord to join the old Great Central line at Calvert. The waste was used to fill the old brickwork clay pits. There was also military traffic to and from the MOD at Bicester which had its own internal railway network.

 

Whilst the route was prefectly acceptable for limited freight traffic - rebuilding it to modern standards is a requirement of any reopened route these days. Thirty years of leaving the sleepers to rot (where they have not been removed for gardening acitivites) and rails to rust (again those not reclaimed by those looking to make a few quid from the scrap metal industry) and doing little else - makes it an expensive business for any reopening scheme. 

 

* The closure process for the withdrawal of passenger services between Oxford and Cambridge took place in the mid-1960s and included the section between Bletchley and Bedford. The latter never closed despite several attempts as providing alternative bus services proved difficult and in the end resulted in its retention.

 

Ironically the consultation process for the line east of Bletchley includes the closure of most of the intermediate stations currently served by Marston Vale trains. The picture below was taken yesterday.

 

 

DSC_0036.JPG

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