The Anonymous Widower

East-West Rail: Bedford’s Mayoral Candidates Split On Rail Project

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the first sentence.

Part of the route of the controversial East-West Rail project will not be decided before we know the winner of Bedford’s mayoral elections.

Unfortunately, the four candidates for Mayor all seem to have different ideas for East-West Railway through the town.

I have a few thoughts and observations.


Thameslink has the following connections to the East West Railway.

  • Four tph at Bedford.
  • Three tph at Cambridge.


  1. tph is trains per hour.
  2. All Bedford trains terminate at Bedford.
  3. The half-hourly Luton Airport Express between London St. Pancras and Corby stops at Luton Airport Parkway, Luton, Bedford, Wellingborough and Kettering.
  4. Cambridge trains may extend to Cambridge North station.
  5. Cambridge has additional through services between London King’s Cross and Ely and/or King’s Lynn.

Both Bedford and Cambridge will be busy stations.

Extra Tracks At Bedford

Bedford station has four tracks; two which are generally used by Thameslink services and two main lines used by through trains.

  • The fast lines must accommodate the following trains.
  • East Midlands Railway – 6 tph in both directions. Two tph stop in Bedford station.
  • Freight Trains – 2 tph in both directions.
  • East West Railway – 2 tph in both directions. All trains will stop in Bedford station.

It strikes me, that the station may need at least one and possibly two extra tracks.

If there are extra tracks, there will need to be some demolition of houses.

Freight Trains

In Roaming Around East Anglia – Newmarket Station, I wrote this about the plans of the East West Rail Consortium in the area.

In this document on the East-West Rail Consortium web site, this is said.

Note that doubling of Warren Hill Tunnel at Newmarket and
redoubling between Coldham Lane Junction and Chippenham Junction is included
in the infrastructure requirements. It is assumed that most freight would operate
via Newmarket, with a new north chord at Coldham Lane Junction, rather than
pursuing further doubling of the route via Soham.

So would it be possible to create a double-track railway through Newmarket station?

In the related post, I came to this conclusion.

Newmarket can benefit from East West Rail, but the two parties must agree objectives that don’t cause problems for the other.

But I do think, that Newmarket will not welcome the building of a double-track railway through the town.

I do wonder, if the East West Rail Consortium plan to run freight trains between Felixstowe and South Wales and the West of England through Bedford and Oxford.

Four freight tph, through Bedford would certainly need extra tracks and the demolition of houses in the centre of Bedford.


Two of the candidates for Bedford’s mayor, think that the line needs to be electrified.

As the route is full or partially-electrified at Didcot, Bletchley, Bedford and Cambridge, I believe that battery-electric trains could handle the route.

But then there are no plans to purchase any passenger trains of this type.

Freight trains would still need to be diesel hauled, unless more progress is made fairly quickly in the development of hydrogen-powered freight locomotives.

The Cambridge Effect

Cambridge is one of the most important cities in the world, because of its strength in innovation in high technology industries.

But Cambridge is bursting at the seams and needs more space for laboratories, advanced manufacturing and housing.

A fully-developed double-track and electrified East West Railway would open up Bletchley, Milton Keynes, Bedford, Newmarket, Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich to act as satellites to help Cambridge build a shared and successful future.

The Felixstowe Effect

If Cambridge will stimulate the growth of passenger traffic, then Felixstowe will promote the growth of East-West freight traffic.


It may not be initially built that way, but probably by 2040, the East West Railway will be a fully-electrified double-track railway between Didcot and Felixstowe.

Extra tracks will also be needed through Bedford. This will mean demolition of houses.


April 15, 2023 - Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. The chances of this ever being extended beyond Bedford look pretty slim to me in the current environment. HS2 is hoovering up 50% of the rail annual capex spend for next 10 years and with the bulk of the remaining rail spend committed to TRU and MML for next five years at least this is going to get squeezed out. We should then be pushing on with electrifying and upgrading the rest network before we start building new lines again and of course it doesnt really fit the need for levelling up given how affluent the area is already.

    I certainly reckon this would have been an ideal route to have used BEMUs on and they could have easily extended the electrification at Bedford and Bletchley without too many infrastructure issues to provide for sufficent time under the wires to avoid battery use and allow 25kv running whilst charging Instead they are going to “steal” the new diesels from WMT and leave them operating old high emission trains in/out Birmingham New St for another decade.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | April 15, 2023 | Reply

    • I used to play real tennis at Cambridge, with one of Cambridge’s most respected long term development thinkers.

      Sadly, he died about ten years ago, but he would have felt that the East West Railway was essential for the development of Cambridge, as the City so short of space. Bedford will become a satellite town off Cambridge, as will Peterborough, Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds and Norwich.

      I also believe that the CAF trains, which have MTU engines must be convertible to hybrids, otherwise these trains were the classic boob buy and a total waste of money!

      Comment by AnonW | April 15, 2023 | Reply

  2. Like HS2, this is sadly another example of the lack of any coherent strategy for rail. Although the present gov will make a decision on the route next month, it will be up to the next government to decide whether/how to implement it. The BBC article focuses on the Bedford mayor, but he has few powers on rail transport. Much of the new section is in the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough region, whose transport remit is likely to expand significantly under devolved powers, whichever party forms the next national gov. It will then be up to the mayor to decide on priorities (all the metro mayors are up for election next year).

    So, as so often, I think we have to wait and see what happens politically. Much will depend on the details of any rail powers devolution.

    Comment by Peter Robins | April 15, 2023 | Reply

  3. I also think that East West Railway’s proposed route between Cambridge and Bury St. Edmunds will not be accepted by the racing industry in Newmarket. Freight trains and horses don’t mix.

    Comment by AnonW | April 15, 2023 | Reply

    • AFAICS, EWR’s website doesn’t mention freight, and Cambridge-Ipswich isn’t part of its remit. The East West Main Line Partnership – the new name for the consortium – is a separate body, a group of local governments lobbying for the potential uses of EWR. I’d agree with them, but their proposals aren’t currently part of what is officially EWR.

      Comment by Peter Robins | April 15, 2023 | Reply

  4. Such a pity that chunks of the original trackbed between Bedford & Cambridge have been built on otherwise it could have be reused.

    Comment by MauriceGReed | April 15, 2023 | Reply

  5. East West Rail have just published a route update – quite a lengthy document with more details on their proposals, inc their preferred Bedford-Cambridge route (rather a winding route, especially compared with the pretty straight Oxford-Bedford line). This will go out to public consultation next year, which will then be consolidated into a Development Consent Order application. So, unlikely to see the light of day much before 2030, I would have thought.

    As the Tory Bedford mayor candidate mentioned in the BBC article above bucked the trend and defeated the Lib Dem, it will be interesting to see what approach he takes now he’s in charge. EWR are proposing reducing the no of properties that have to be demolished, and also suggesting a scheme to help current property owners.

    Comment by Peter Robins | May 26, 2023 | Reply

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