Borough boost by new ‘Varsity Line’

Passengers had to fend for themselves in Bank Holiday Monday
Passengers had to fend for themselves in Bank Holiday Monday

A rail link from Bedford to Cambridge is a step closer to being built after a report showed it would boost the economy.

The East West Rail Consortium (EWRC), which is working on reinstating the former ‘Varsity Line’ between Oxford and Cambridge, commissioned the report which identifies the line would support significant growth in the region.

Bob Menzies, who chairs the EWRC central section group said the western section from Oxford, Bedford and Milton Keynes is going ahead, but the former line betwen Bedford and Cambridge has been dismantled and the land sold.

He said: “This means we are looking at constructing a brand new stretch of railway. Several routes have been considered in the past but until now there has not been clear justification for investment.

“This study shows there is significant economic growth potential that could be unlocked through new rail services and the Government is providing funds for Network Rail to undertake the next vital phase of feasibility work to identify a preferred route.”

It is expected Network Rail will present a business case and funding bid to the Government by 2016.

Rail campaign group Railfuture welcomes the news and hopes the route could be opened by 2022. Spokesman Peter Wakefield said: “What some once regarded as a ‘pipe dream’ in 1995 when Railfuture wrote the original paper that led to local authorities across the region setting up of the East West Rail Consortium, will soon be a vital economic artery serving every part of the region.”