HS2 Attracts Controversy and Argument as Cheaper and Cost-Effective Schemes like East-West Rail are Ignored

January 27, 2020 10:45 AM
Originally published by Nick Hollinghurst - Working for Tring, for Britain and for You!

East West Rail Clearance 2HS2 could make an important contribution to the UK economy and to rail communications generally, perhaps with more realistic technical specifications - and especially with a lowering of the maximum design speed. There is a risk of course that it will just suck more jobs, businesses and prosperity out of the Midlands and engender a new breed of "super-commuters". Meanwile other projects suffer and there is a developing case for building HS3, an express cross-Pennine railway, independently. This would be cheaper and could provide significant regional development with less risk and greater cost-effectiveness.

And then there is a long list of other simpler schemes, which could repair the "rail poverty" that blighted many market towns and communities after the Beeching cuts of the 1960s. Not only would these help to reduce dependence on cars but would bring prosperity back to areas currently hit by the wrong end of social and income inequalities.

One such scheme would be the East-West rail project, which is a prudently costed venture that can proceed incrementally. The first stage is already completed with the upgrade of the line from Oxford to Bicester and then, with the replacement of a key curve and a new junction, via the Chiltern Line into London Marylebone, adding capacity to supplement the Oxford to London Paddington route.

The second stage, however, is the restoration of the currently disused line through Bicester, then to via Winslow to Bletchley. To complicate matters the government decided this and the succeeding sections from Bletchley to Bedford and then over completely new track from Bedford to Cambridge, would involve a private company, noe set up and called the East West Railway Company which will oversee the establishment of a line from Bicester to Cambridge.

East West Rail Clearance 1However this second stage could be ready to start very soon. Network Rail submitted a Transport and Works Act Order application to the Secretary of State for Transport for the Bicester-Bletchley segment in July 2018. The Public Enquiry in connection with this ended on 1 May 2019 but since then, and up to now (January 2020) we have been waiting for a decision Department for Transport.

If this section is to proceed then within four years we could have local services at least running between Oxford and Bletchley and Aylesbury and Bletchley, and then via the Marston Vale Line to Bedford.

The picture shows the existing disused track between Bicester and Bltchley after the lineside vegetation was cleared away 6 years ago.

And the whole line to Cambridge could be rebuilt anew for a tiny froction of HS2's ballooning costs.