Tag Archives: Varsity Line

New Sighting And Some New Line Thoughts

Hello one and all,

6Z49 1103 Crawley New Yard (Gbrf) to Cardiff Docks Greenergy Gb 66768 trundled past Selhurst at 11:44. It’s a ‘cop’ for me (new sighting).

I think it must be the heat but there really seems to be a number of wild ideas on new or reopened railways lines recently.

A real ‘pie in the sky’ idea is this HS4AIR project. For those not in the know it’s a plan for a High Speed line between Ashford area (for the Channel Tunnel) through Tonbridge, Redhill, Gatwick Airport, along the North Downs Line and alongside the M25 to Heathrow then with a spur to the Great Western mainline and the main line going up to join on to HS2. The Rail Forums members seem to think it’s a project that won’t get of the ground as to many of us in the rail industry.

Next you have the reopening of the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth in Wales. Again not looking feasible.

A new line in to Grassington (Yorkshire Dales) to help the national parks?

The reopening of the Grand Central Railway line.

There’s even a part reopening and a new bit of line proposal ! !

Before anyone thinks I am not open to new and reopened stations/routes, nothing could be further from the truth. I am all for the opening of lines like the Borders railway in Scotland and new stations like Coventry Arena, Cambridge North and Kenilworth. I think there there are more important lines and stations that could be reopened. The Wisbech line is one that has track still in situ and is a project of Rail Future. Soham Station is another station that could really do with backing. The list of places that need stations is quite interesting and some locations should take priority over like the HS4AIR above.

Certainly the Brighton Line problems needs looking at and the ideas of BML2 seems to evoke a multitude of feelings. Would a line through Lewes and East Grinstead improve the congestion of the Brighton Line?

Would a Thameslink 2 project help with transfers through London now that the maximum 24 tph is almost achieved? Certainly increasing the Thameslink ‘core’ in it’s current incarnation to 30 tph is nonsense, as anyone with any number of years working on the railway will testify to.

The East/West (it was also known as the Varsity Line in the past) between Oxford and Cambridge is dragging on and there are some real stumbling blocks in the eastern section of the line.

Above all and before all the new stuff … we need to get Britain’s railways back on track (pardon the pun).
As British Rail? Maybe.
Is there a better way of doing it all? Probably.
Better Timetables? Yes.
More sensible trains including comfort. Of Course.
and importantly more common sense approach and basic ticketing.

These things are not the “Rail Enthusiast” in me, they are for the good of the railways and the people working and using them.

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Reinstating Disused Lines

Reading through the Railfuture website there seems to be a lot of interest in the creating new stations like Barking Riverside which will serve a new and upcoming area of the London Suburbs that is having a large housing development built. There are also some campaigns for the reinstatement of disused lines.

Two that had peaked my interest have been the old ‘Varsity Line’ which ran from Cambridge to Oxford and is currently being built/reinstated as the East West Railway. Originally the line began at Oxford Rewley Road and went on to Port Meadow, Wolvercote, Oxford Road, Islip, Oddington, Charlton, Wendlebury, Bicester Town (London Road), Launton, Marsh Gibbon and Poundon, Clayton, Verney Junction, Winslow, Branbourne, Bletchley, Fenny Stratford, Bow Bricknell, Wobourn Sands, Apsley Guise, Hussbourne Crawley, Ridgemont, Lidlington, Millbrook, Stewartby, Wooton Broadhead, Kempston Hardwick, Kempston and Hardwick, Bedford St. Johns, Bedford, Willington, Blunham, Girtford Halt, Sandy, Potton, Gamblingay, Old North Road, Lords Bridge, Cambridge. All stations in bold are still open. Stations between Bletchley and Bedford are part of London Midland’s ‘The Marston Vale Line‘ which I travelled over last year. Between the Oxford area and Bletchley there is a but it is a freight only one but is now being upgragded to become the East West Rail. The new line will only have Oxford, Oxford Parkway, Bicester Village, Winslow, Bletchley and the same stations still in use to Bedford. Herein lies one of the problems. The East West Rail says:

Central Section
The Central Section of East West Rail will extend the Western Section of East West Rail to Cambridge. Within the overall scheme, this is the most difficult and costly part of the route to reinstate as the former railway has been dismantled and the land disposed of.
The line was closed in the 1960s. Many bridges have either been removed or are in a poor state of repair and the Bedford bypass severs the line.
The Consortium is now working with Network Rail to identify how the rail network may be enhanced to deliver new train services and connections across the region, and to identify a single preferred route within a broad corridor from Bedford to Cambridge via Sandy, for train services through to East Anglia.

So one wonders how this is going to be linked to Cambridge?

The second project that has caught my eye is the reopening of the line to Wisbech (the Bramley Line) and to me this looks like a VERY good idea. There has been a feasibility study done and it looks like this really could go ahead especially with Railfuture’s support. The track is still in situ according to sources (see the pdf) and was well maintained until the withdrawal of freight services. The line is nowhere near as long or as demanding as the Varsity Line and is only seven miles long but it appears one of the sticking points is the station at Wisbech itself and the A47 road. The Wisbech line site is well put together and informative. They aren’t asking for the reopening of all the old stations or even to be extended on to Watlington (the original route) just to open and upgrade the existing line for a large community.

Wisbech and adjoined parishes have over 31,000 inhabitants with several thousand more in adjacent areas of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. The station if reopened would be the nearest to the Lincolnshire ‘mini-conurbation’ that stretches from Sutton Bridge to Holbeach/Whaplode, population 33,200. This Wisbech sub region has over 70,000 inhabitants, stretching across the county borders into Norfolk and Lincolnshire and is one the largest and most populated regions in the east without a railway.

Certainly it seems logical to reinstate this line.

Having a little surf whilst eating my sandwich revealed another interesting blog post by ‘The Anonymous Widower’ about the reopening of the line to Hunstanton. Not a line I am familiar with and having only just read the post I would need a further look at the old line and the proposals. It is well worth a read.

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in Issue 849 Of Rail Magazine. The article discusses reopening the the former branch line between King’s Lynn station and Hunstanton, which in the author’s view, was a a mistake on British Rail’s part and nothing to do with Beeching. It would […]

via Putting Right Norfolk’s £150m Rail Mistake — The Anonymous Widower

The future for the Railways is rather good but one wonders if a Nationalised Railway would have a better chance of improving services, opening lines or new stations?