The government and East West Rail has confirmed its preferred route for the final stage of the £5 billion East West Rail project.
The route which will connect Oxford and Cambridge via Milton Keynes and Bedford has been earmarked by the Department for Transport as a key infrastructure project which will unlock the region’s economic potential.
The line will utilise parts of the old varsity line, upgrading and electrifying the line between Oxford and Bedford.
However, the final part of the line between Bedford and Cambridge will be a completely new line.
A second public consultation has been underway since 2021. The first consultation started in 2019. Five routes have been under consideration during that time, however it is Route E which has prevailed.
Route E will see three completely new stations built – Bedford St John’s, Tempsford and Cambourne before approaching Cambridge from the south, connecting to existing West Anglia Main Line at Shepreth Junction.
This route would avoid any need to build a proposed tunnel and interchanging with Cambridge Central station below ground.
Along with the announcement today, East West Rail has produced a report providing background on the decision. The report states that the route was the most popular amongst the consultees and would avoid some of the most environmentally challenging areas.
The decision on the preferred route is the final part of the East West Rail project to be decided, with other parts of the line currently under construction or planned works set to begin in the coming months. These include the construction of a station at Winslow and the redevelopment of Bletchley train station to connect it to the new line.
Transport Secretary, Mark Harper said on the announcement: “The cities of Oxford and Cambridge are renowned across the globe for their academic excellence - East West Rail will be vital in allowing them to thrive for generations to come and help to grow the economy.
“With the potential to unlock £103 billion of growth through new homes, businesses and job opportunities, this crucial line will also serve as a catalyst for development in one of Europe’s most vibrant local economies while making travel quicker, cheaper and easier across the region.”
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