Network Rail is leading early development work for an East West Railway as part of its Long Term Planning Process for identifying future investment options. It has identified two potential corridors for the proposed "˜Central Section' of East West Rail between Bedford and Cambridge, via Hitchin or Sandy for further consideration.
The study shows that corridors connecting Bedford and Cambridge via Sandy or Hitchin offer the best value for money at this stage of development. Network Rail will evaluate these corridors further in order to identify a single preferred corridor initially and then give consideration to routes within that corridor.
This follows initial work by the East West Rail Consortium that showed that improved rail services in the Eastern region could deliver significant economic benefits sufficient to justify further investment.
The aim is to identify a preferred route and develop the study for the Central Section for consideration for inclusion in the Initial Industry Plan due for publication in Sept 2016 as a choice for investment in the rail industry's future control periods.
This study included initial appraisal of seven corridors, all of which offer different levels of benefit. Differences in capital and operating costs, however, have a significant impact on the value for money that each corridor offers, taking into consideration the impact of longer journey times on rolling stock leasing, fuel, track access charges and train crew requirements.
Further investigations into feasibility from a railway civil engineering perspective will be carried out once a single preferred corridor has been identified.
Cllr Ian Bates, of Cambridgeshire County Council and Chair of the East West Rail Consortium's Central Section Board said: "In order to secure investment for the Central Section, we need a robust business case that is aligned to local and regional growth plans as well as the strategic rail network. This important work is providing valuable evidence that will support our long-held ambition to reinstate east west train services that will benefit individuals, communities and businesses all the way from East Anglia through Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and beyond."