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East Anglia: New boost to hopes for new rail link to south and west

PUBLISHED: 11:11 20 August 2014 | UPDATED: 11:14 20 August 2014

Trains like this could one day link Cambridge and Oxford again.

Trains like this could one day link Cambridge and Oxford again.

Archant

Hopes of restoring a rail link axed by Dr Beeching in the 1960s to give a direct route from Felixstowe and Ipswich to Swindon and the line to south Wales and the West Country have received a big boost.

The East West Rail Consortium has published a report that shows that extending the East West Rail line from Oxford to Cambridge has real potential.

The report concludes a study by Atkins Consultants and is the first step towards developing an outline business case for the East West Rail ‘Central Section’.

The largely-mothballed rail line between Oxford and Bedford is being upgraded for full passenger uses, and from Oxford there is a main line to Swindon which is on the main route to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea.

However the 30-mile stretch between Cambridge and Bedford was axed in the 1960s, and would have to be rebuilt.

Network Rail will now lead the next phase of work which will consider and examine the engineering, operational and planning feasibility and cost of several potential route options.

That work is expected to identify a preferred route and in early 2015 and provide the basis for the development of an outline business case.

The aim is to establish a scheme that can be submitted to Government in 2016 to secure inclusion of the scheme, subject to funding availability, in the 2019-24 investment plans for the rail industry.

Ipswich councillor Phil Smart said: “As the consortium’s founding member I am delighted that our vision of fast, direct trains to Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford via Cambridge looks set to become a reality.

“This line now has support across the political spectrum at all levels of government as well as from business leaders and transport campaigners. What some once regarded as a ‘pipe dream’ will soon be a vital economic artery serving our part of the
region.”

Bob Menzies, of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Now that the Western Section between Oxford, Bedford and Milton Keynes is going ahead, we are working to develop the business case for the Central Section to complete the missing link.

“The former line between Bedford and Cambridge has been dismantled, the land sold and sections used for other purposes, including housing. This means that we are looking at constructing a brand new railway.”

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