Published: 7th December 2014
The latest East West Rail project (EWR) consultation takes place between 5pm and 8pm on Wednesday December 10 at Quainton Church of England School, Lower Street, Quainton HP22 4BJ.
Why is this event important? Because there are many public railway crossings in the area bounded by Aylesbury and Quainton and these will need to be upgraded or abolished with a 100mph railway planned for the line.
Currently the linespeed is 30mph and as a result, crossing sighting and warning distances are lower than a 100mph railway. Currently there are around five trains a day and this will increase to possibly four trains an hour, two in each direction.
Network Rail looking at how to ensure that public safety is maximised with the scheme which in just over four years time will link Milton Keynes and Bedford with Aylesbury, Winslow, Bicester and Oxford. Currently about 25 miles of line is either mothballed or only used for slow speed freight trains serving Calvert landfill site.
Charles Hurst, Network Rail’s project manager for East West Rail, said: “Safety on and around the railway is a top priority for us. We want to make sure that the reinstated sections of railway are safe for everyone to use, which is why we are undertaking this study.
“So far, we have discussed our initial proposals with the local authority, landowners and ramblers, but we are keen to hear the wider community’s views. This event gives us the chance to share our initial plans with residents and invite them to give us the benefit of their local knowledge and experience.”
An EWR project reception was held at Westminster providing an update on the project.
It was announced at the meeting that passive provision would be made for a station at Steeple Claydon just east Calvert at Queen Catherine Road. This is because a construction and maintenance depot at Calvert will create huge employment opportunities. The two new lines, HS2 and EWR will have a physical connection here making the provision easier and so the chance of a link has opened up. Plans f this location were displayed at the event.
The economic benefit of the EWR project had been upgraded and the scheme would pay for itself within five years it was announced. It has also been established that 45 cities would be just one change away from the EWR linking Scotland and Cornwall.
One task of building a new railway is to check that Parliamentary Powers exist to upgrade the route. Investigations have shown that several sections of the line were not built on the planned route so construction powers have to be sought for these deviations.
Just over a year ago Atkins Consultants were engaged to carry out a two-phased study to evaluate the value and business case of a rail route between Cambridge and Bedford - known as the Central Section (EWR- CS).
The first phase will identify what is called a number of Conditional Outputs which set out the train service needed to generate economic benefits and to support future housing and economic growth on the line of route. In Atkins’ words: The services have been identified without considering feasibility, deliverability or adoption of specific routes where new infrastructure may be required.
This is the task of phase two which will develop the business case and be written in conjunction with Network Rail and the Department for Transport (DfT)
The first phase identified 64 potential station locations which was reduced to the 26 which showed the greatest potential to generate rail demand and support economic growth. A matrix of journey times between these 26 locations was created which in turn enabled potential demand to be forecast using computer models assuming a two trains per hour service.
This work showed that there was a reduced demand for journeys over an hour but shorter journeys were likely to be heavily used by commuters. This was especially the case for locations such as Luton, Northampton and Bedford in directions where rail does not operate currently.
Longer journey times are more likely to be used by business passengers so for example, a Bedford to Reading, or Oxford to Cambridge and Norwich would be attractive boosting the business case.
So again, as Atkins says: the task is to establish how to create an attractive and competitive combination of multiple passenger service opportunities between sizeable business activity and labour market locations is likely to maximise the economic growth potential the EWR-CS scheme
Cambridge Councillor Ian Bates gave the All Party Parliamentary EWR Chairman, Iain Stewart MP a letter for George Osborne concerning funding for the central section linking in Cambridge to the EWR project at the Westminster event on November 10.
Mr Stewart is also The Transport Secretary’s PPS and so is in a deserved position of influence. He is also passionate and knowledgeable about promoting railways which is excellent news for all rail users.
The EW-CS will recreate the British Rail plan of 50 years ago which saw the Bletchley Flyover built intending to create an East-west freight route avoiding London. Despite the flyover being mothballed from 1993 for a decade, it is technically now back in use and is a key element of the EWR project.
If the missing section to Cambridge is rebuilt, freight to and from the East Coast ports of Felixstowe and Thames Gateway ports will no longer have to be routed via London. Intermodal traffic is forecast to increase as is bulk rail freight. So as well as bringing major benefits to passengers, freight will also benefit and there could be two new freight terminals as a result. These could be at Ridgmont which is located at Junction 13 of the M1 and Stewartby and at Bicester adjacent to the M40.
If the EWR-CS was implemented, it would offer potential through running from East Anglia to the western side of the UK (south of the West Midlands). It could also provide links to the other north-south routes to London facilitating new freight flows plus diversion of some existing traffic flows.
Phase 2 of the study will be developed by Network Rail (NR) working with the EWR Consortium and the DfT to assess the service delivery options further against the costs of deliverability which will inform the business case development by 2016.
The outputs will be used by NR as part of their Long Term Planning Process (LTPP) through the East Midlands route study in order to inform the Initial Industry Plan for 2016 for possible inclusion, subject to funding, within the CP6 enhancement delivery plan.
A key point is that north-south rail services are good based on London but east-west routes are poor and fragmented. This has driven the ever growing commuter traffic to London and new travel options across the country would help relieve London services as the EWR CS would open up commuting for many reducing reliance on jobs in London. Airports generate significant rail traffic and again, the EWR CS would link Luton and Stansted Airports with many more locations.
The report has identified many high priority services and for example, a few of these are between Luton and Luton Airport Parkway to Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City, Bedford and Hitchin - both these lines were closed 50 years ago! Others were between Harlow and Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield and Luton (the Welwyn to Luton line was also closed in the 60s! Other similar demand was identified between Bedford and Northampton and Cambridge