The Anonymous Widower

Cambridge Should Have A Metro System Like Barcelona

This was the title on this article in the Cambridge News.

This map shows the proposition.

It is probably a reasonable aspiration for the city, but the plan proposed would be very expensive, as the proposer suggests a tunnel under Cambridge.

In Making Sense Of The New East Anglia Franchise, I had a section entitled A Cambridge Metro. Some of this post is an update of the previous one.

So what do we know is actually happening?

Cambridge’s £750Million City Deal

This article in the Cambridge News is entitled Three new train stations and £750m City Deal projects to fuel Cambridge public transport revolution.

These rail improvements are mentioned in the article.

  • New stations at Addenbrooke’s, Cherry Hinton and Fulbourn.
  • Cambridge to Kings Lynn service increase from one to two trains per hour (tph)
  • Two tph to Stansted.
  • March to Wisbech rail reinstatement.
  • Cambridge to Ipswich service increase to two tph
  • East Coast Main Line rail capacity improvements between Huntingdon and Peterborough
  • A new station at Alconbury on the East Coast Main Line.
  • Reinstate the ‘Newmarket west curve’ to allow direct services to run between Ely and the new station at Soham to Newmarket and Cambridge.
  • Double tracking of railway line between Ely and Soham.

Cambridge is bursting and needs more local transport systems and the City Deal and other funding recognises that!

Services Through Cambridge

Within a few years, all of these services will arrive at one or all of Cambridge, Cambridge North and the proposed Cambridge South stations.

  • Greater Anglia from Ipswich
  • Greater Anglia from Liverpool Street
  • Greater Anglia from Norwich
  • EastMidlands Trains and CrossCountry from Peterborough
  • Greater Anglia and CrossCountry from Stansted Airport
  • East West Rail Link from Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford
  • Great Northern from Kings Cross
  • Great Northern from King’s Lynn
  • Thameslink from Brighton
  • Thameslink from Maidstone East
  • Thameslink from St. Pancras

Cambridge is taking over the world. Or at least making it a much better place!

Cambridge Crossrail?

These services could be organised, so they ran more efficiently.


  • Perhaps they could call at Cambridge South, Cambridge, Cambridge North and Ely stations in an appropriate order as they pass through the City in a North-South direction.
  • It might be better if services from the South were run back-to-back with services from the North.
  • Greater Anglia are already proposing a Norwich-Stansted Airport service.
  • Great Northern already run a King’s Lynn-Kings Cross service.
  • Cambridge has four bay platforms for terminating trains.
  • Cambridge North station  will have a South-facing bay platform.
  • Ely station has had a South-facing bay platform

I think it very likely that after a meeting in one of Cambridge’s excellent real ale hostelries, a very adequate core service can be developed through Cambridge.

Could this core service do for Cambridge, what other Cross-City services have done for Berlin, Birmingham, Leipzig, Liverpool, Newcastle and Paris?

On published plans the following will be running in a year or so, between Ely and the site of Cambridge South station.

  • 1 train per hour (tph) between Norwich and Stansted Airport
  • 1 tph between Birmingham and Stansted Airport
  • 1 tph between Kings Cross and Kings Lynn.

In addition Thameslink will have 2 tph between Cambridge North and Brighton via St. Pancras and London Bridge, so the three Cambridge stations could have a 5 tph connection.

The Bombardier Aventra

Greater Anglia have ordered 89 five-car and 22 ten-car Aventras and they obviously have plans to use them all efficiently.

The Aventra has a slightly unusual and innovative electrical layout.

This article in Global Rail News from 2011, which is entitled Bombardier’s AVENTRA – A new era in train performance, gives some details of the Aventra’s electrical systems. This is said.

AVENTRA can run on both 25kV AC and 750V DC power – the high-efficiency transformers being another area where a heavier component was chosen because, in the long term, it’s cheaper to run. Pairs of cars will run off a common power bus with a converter on one car powering both. The other car can be fitted with power storage devices such as super-capacitors or Lithium-Iron batteries if required.

This was published six years ago, so I suspect Bombardier have improved the concept.

It looks like the length and capacity of a ten-car Aventra is equivalent to that of a twelve-car formation of Class 317Class 321 or Class 360 trains.

So on a rough estimate the Aventras are equivalent  to about 200 four-car units.

Currently Greater Anglia have 170 four-car electric trains, ignoring the Class 379 trains, which will be replaced by Stadler Flirts.

Greater Anglia appear to have increased the fleet by the equivalent of thirty four-car trains or another twenty five-car Aventras than they would need to replicate current services.

When you consider that for some of their routes, the faster and quicker-stopping Aventras, should provide current service with fewer trains, you wonder what Greater Anglia are going to do with these spare trains?

Bombardier’s concept of a pair of cars sharing the electrical components, that I indicated earlier, is a good one from an engineering point of view.

It shares the weight of heavy components and would allow a weighty high-capacity energy storage device to be easily installed, to give sufficient range to go between say Ely and Peterborough stations, which is a distance of just twenty-five miles.

In addition, suppose though the train was packaged in a passenger-friendly skin, that made it look more as much like a tram than a train!

You would have a train, that would be equally at home using the electrification on the 100 mph Great Eastern Main Line or running silently through the countryside at a leisurely 40-50 mph using onboard energy storage.

In the following sections, I’ll investigate how Aventras could expand the basic core service around Cambridge.

Turn-Up-And-Go Services

Where I live in Dalston in East London, the London Overground run services at what they call a Turn-Up-And-Go service of four trains per hour (tph).

Merseyrail use this frequency on some of their lines, as do Birmingham and Leeds.

This should be the aim for services to and from Cambridge.

Commuting Into Cambridge

Many travel into Cambridge every day for work.

  • The trains are crowded.
  • Many travel with bicycles.
  • The Cambridge Park-and-Ride is very busy.
  • It is not unknown for commuters to unfold their Brompton in a Park-and-Ride and cycle to work.
  • The City Centre seems grid-locked with traffic and walkers most of the day.

The conclusion is that extra capacity is needed.

Cambridge North Station

Cambridge North station will provide extra capacity in the North of the City and better access to the Science Park.

But extra thought will need to be put into services at the station.


There are no plans for a direct service between Cambridge North and Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich.

  • There is only one tph to Norwich.
  • There is only one tph to Peterborough.
  • Will CrossCountry’s Birmingham to Stansted service stop at both Cambridge and Cambridge North stations?

A chord at Ely Dock Junction would create a route between Suffolk and Cambridge North station.

Rail Lines Into Cambridge

In a few years,  these rail lines will bring passengers to Cambridge.

From the late 2020s, the lines will be joined by the East-West Rail Link..

The Guided Busway

Cambridge has spent a lot of money developing the Guided Busway.

One of the main reasons for developing the Southern section of the Guided Busway was to serve Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the surrounding cluster of health-related companies and research establishments.

Now that Addenbrooke’s is getting a new Cambridge South station, will the  Guided Busway be less important?

Possibly, but the station will probably rule out any extension of the Busway at its Southern end.

The Guided Busway will also call at both Cambridge and Cambridge North stations. Surely, passengers who are using the busway to go North of Cambridge will change transport mode at Cambridge North station.

It looks to me, that when Cambridge North and Cambridge South stations are fully operational, that the busway’s main purpose will be to bring passengers to and from the two new stations.

Services Via The West Anglia Main Line

Services to London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport on the fully-electrified West Anglian Main Line, consist of the current services.

  • 1 tph fast to Liverpool Street
  • 1 tph semi-fast to Liverpool Street
  • 1 tph to Stansted Airport.

When Greater Anglia receive their Stadler Flirts, the operator will add a one tph Norwich to Stansted Airport service.

All except one of these services are fast services with limited stops and two will only go as far as Stansted Airport.

As the Aventras will be able to cruise at a fast speed and thus keep out of the way of the express Flirts, could we see some extra local services on the line, that will improve local journeys and connections to Bishops Stortford, Cambridge and Stansted Airport?

Commuting, shopping and leisure activities in Cambridge would certainly be easier if your local station had four tph.

Services Via The Cambridge And East Coast Main Lines

Services to London Kings Cross via the fully-electrified Cambridge  Line will consist of the current services.

  • 1 tph fast to London Kings Cross
  • 1 tph semi-fast to London Kings Cross

Thameslink will add the following services.

  • 2 tph to Brighton – Semi-fast stopping at  Royston, Baldock (peak only) Letchworth Garden City, Hitchin, Stevenage
  • 2 tph to Maidstone East – Stopping at  all stations.

These might replace the current semi-fast service to Kings Cross.

Stations like Letchworth Garden City, Baldock and Royston currently get two tph to Cambridge and will get four tph when Thameslink opens.

But surely a Turn-Up-And-Go service of four tph at a lot more stations, would pull more passengers out of the woodwork.

So why not run Aventras from Cambridge to a suitable station to improve the service?

There may be a problem with Greater Anglia running this service, as the Cambridge Line is Great Northern territory, but if that is the case, Great Northern should join the party around Cambridge.

Services To Bedford, Milton Keynes And Oxford

The East West Rail Link and Cambridge South station  could be delivered in the late 2020s.

I will deal with local services on this line later.

Services To Norwich

The one tph from Norwich to Cambridge will be replaced by a one tph Norwich to Stansted Airport service, so in practice those living in Cambridge will only notice a destination change and a new larger train.

North of Ely, the service will actually be two tph, as there is a one tph Norwich-Nottingham service.

This service pattern will be sufficient for a few years, but I can see a time, when there is a need for two tph on the Cambridge-Norwich route, with possibly one extended to Yarmouth.

This service frequency is not sufficient for a commuter route into Cambridge.

As an example, Thetford station has just two tph in each direction between Norwich and Ely, with only one tph going to Cambridge. Miss a train and wait an hour doesn’t attract customers!

The line is not electrified between Ely and Thetford, but the distance is only a small amount over twenty miles, which could be in out-and-back range for an Aventra running on onboard energy storage.

So an Aventra running using onboard power could probably run a four tph Turn-Up-And-Go service from Cambridge as far as Thetford with the following stops to the North of Ely.

What would four tph in addition to the current two tph do to this area?

Services To Peterborough

Cambridge to Peterborough currently has only one tph, with three tph between Ely and Peterborough.

This means that Peterborough with all its connections to the North of England and Scotland, is not a particularly difficult journey, but a rather infrequent journey from Cambridge.

But it needs a Turn-Up-And-Go service of four tph from the two Cambridge stations.

The Ely-Peterborough Line is a major freight artery, but it is not electrified.

However, the section without electrification is just over twenty miles, so an Aventra with onboard storage could manage it with ease and charge the energy storage at both ends.

There are also just two stations on the line at March and Whittlesea.

So why not open a few more stations on the line and give them a decent four tph service between Cambridge and Peterborough?

This Google Map shows the location of the former Peterborough East station.

Surely, with everything going on in the area and need to develop more housing, a station is needed here.

Extension To Wisbech

The track already exists and if ever there was a town that needed a two tph rail link to Cambridge , it is Wisbech, which is less than ten miles from the main Ely-Peterborough Line. Even if the main line isn’t electrified, Wisbech is probably within range of 2020 battery technology from Ely.

The Service To Nottingham

East Midlands Train run a one tph service between Nottingham and Norwich.

Perhaps, as services from Cambridge develop, it might be better for this Nottingham service to terminate at Cambridge.

This would give Cambridge direct access to Nottingham and Leicester, but it would also give the service to Peterborough an increased frequency

If this were to be done, a second Cambridge-Norwich service should probably be added, to restore two tph to Norwich.

Services To Bury St. Edmunds And Ipswich

Network Rail have thought long and hard about what to do with services from Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough over the years.

Greater Anglia’s solution is to run the following services using bi-mode Flirts.

  • 1 tph from Ipswich to Cambridge
  • 1 tph from Colchester to Peterborough.

This will give the following.

  • Services quicker by a few minutes.
  • Two tph between Kennett, Bury St. Edmunds, Stowmarket and Ipswich.
  • More capacity.

But the service to Cambridge and Newmarket and Bury St. Edmunds is as now!

  • There is only one tph from Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds and all the other stations East of Kennett.
  • The service only goes to Cambridge and not Cambridge North or the proposed Cambridge South stations.
  • There is an alternative route with a change at Ely.

Bury St. Edmunds and Newmarket need two tph to both Cambridge stations! And  they need that service now!

Currently trains from Ipswich, Bury St. Edmunds and Newmarket take 79, 42 and 22 minutes respectively to get to Cambridge.

Cambridgeshire County Council also has plans to reopen Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton stations, which with the current trains would probably add five minutes to the current timings.

Could a new bi-mode Flirt go from Ipswich to Cambridge in an hour as opposed to the current one hour nineteen minutes?

  • Is the current timing based on a single-car 75 mph Class 153 train or a 100 mph Class 170 train, that works the route today?
  • The bi-mode Flirts could run on electricity from Ipswich to Haughley unction.
  • There are eight stops on the route, where a minute or two could be saved.
  • Step-free train access from the platform could be provided
  • Haughley Junction could be improved.
  • Wikipedia quotes the line-speed as 40-75 mph, which surely could be raised.
  • Fast turnbacks with a driver change could be performed at Cambridge and Ipswich.

It might just be possible to do Ipswich to Cambridge in an hour.

I can’t believe that this is not an aspiration of Greater Anglia.

It would give.

  • A headline-grabbing one hour trip between Ipswich and Cambridge.
  • ,Currently, Greater Anglia probably use two Class 170 trains on the route, so two trains could give a 2 tph service.
  • Ipswich to Bury St. Edmunds would get a three tph service.

But there would still be a need to change at Cambridge to get to Cambridge North and Cambridge South stations.

A Cambridge Eastern Metro

In the plans for the Cambridge region in the Cambridge News, these two points are made.

  • Reinstate the ‘Newmarket west curve’ to allow direct services to run between Ely and the new station at Soham to Newmarket and Cambridge.
  • Double tracking of railway line between Ely and Soham.

Obviously, these assume that there is a new station at Soham.

This Google Map shows the triangular junction on Newmarket Heath, where the Newmarket West Curve has been lifted.


The railway from Bury St. Edmunds splits into two, with one branch curving round the British Racing School and going North to Ely and the other curving South to go in a short tunnel under Newmarket to get to Newmarket station.

The reinstatement of the West Curve would enable a service to run between Ely and Cambridge stopping at the following stations.

  • Soham – New station
  • Fordham – New station
  • Newmarket
  • Dullingham
  • Fulbourn – New station
  • Cherry Hinton – New station

I have added another station at Fordham.

I estimate Ely to Newmarket will take 13 minutes making the journey time 35 minutes between Ely and Cambridge, as opposed to 16 minutes by the direct route.

This route could open up various route possibilities in addition to being a longer route between Ely and ambridge.

  • It certainly gives Newmarket a better service to Cambridge.
  • Services could terminate the other side of Ely at Kings Lynn, Peterborough, Thetford or Wisbech.
  • With reverses at Cambridge and Ely, a loop service would connect Newmarket and the East of Cambridge to Cambridge North station.
  • The loop service could be extended to Cambridge South station.

I’m sure Greater Anglia have better ideas based on how passengers travel.

A Rebuilt Newmarket Station

Network Rail had a plan to rebuild Newmarket station with an island platform to give interchange between Ely and Peterborough services via the Newmarket West Curve and those going East to Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich.

Could a train going from Peterborough and Ely to Cambridge via Soham be timed to be in Newmarket station at the same time as one going from Cambridge to Ipswich?


  • With two tph on both services in both directions, it would be an efficient way to improve services without buying lots of trains.
  • Perhaps one Ely service would go to Peterborough and the other to Thetford.
  • Ely and Ipswich would have a two extra services in each hour, with just a step across the platform at Newmarket.
  • Newmarket, Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton would have four tph to Cambridge.
  • Newmarket would have two tph to Ely.

There are a lot of possibilities.

Extension To Haverhill

There was a very good railway from the South of Cambridge to Haverhill and onto Sudbury, Marks Tey and |Colchester. But the last train ran on the Stour Valley Railway in 1967.

Greater Anglia have plans for the Eastern end of this route and it will be extended to Colchester Town station with probably two tph to Sudbury.

I suspect that Greater Anglia regret that British Rail closed this line fifty years ago, as two tph running between Colchester Town and Cambridge North stations via Colchester, Marks Tey, Sudbury, Haverhill, Cambridge South and Cambridge stations, wouldn’t be just a nice little earner, but quite a valuable gold-mine.

I believe that Greater Anglia will be running Colchester Town to Sudbury using Aventras with onboard energy storage, away from the overhead wires.

I also believe that by the time the line was extended from Sudbury to Cambridge South, that battery technology will have advanced enough to power a train from Marks Tey to Cambridge South.

Cambridge would gain a new route into the City, using the best that modern British technology can do!

An Aventra Between Marks Tey And Cambridge

After taking on a full load of electricity on the Great Eastern Main Line, a train would just trundle from Marks Tey to Sudbury, Haverhill and on to Cambridge.

  • The route would be nearly all single track.
  • There would be no need for any electrification.
  • Signalling would be conventional.
  • There would be no level crossings.
  • All stations would be single platform, with appropriate facilities.
  • A passing loop might be provided at perhaps Sudbury.
  • Trains might even run on the street in Haverhill, with perhaps three stops in the town.
  • When running on the street, the trains would obey the rules that street-running trams, do in places like Birmingham, Edinburgh and Nottingham.

It wouldn’t look like a conventional railway, but to the operator and the authorities that’s what it would be.

To anybody living or walking in the countryside, it would just be a silent electric vehicle passing at an appropriate speed.

As it’s going to work out of Cambridge, the interior would be geared to the needs of the bicycle-friendly city.

With a range of fifty miles on onboard energy storage, it would have no difficulty with these services.

  • The Cambridge Eastern Metro
  • Marks Tey To Cambridge Via Sudbury And Haverhill.
  • Ely To Thetford
  • Ely to Peterborough
  • Extension To Wisbech

Where else could these trains take the rail network in Cambridge?

Along The East West Rail Link

All the plans for the East West Rail Link are about long distance services services between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge.

But why if you have a 100 mph electrified railway between two important cities, should it not have a two or even four-train per hour stopping service between the cities.

Modern trains are able to execute a station stop so quickly compared to trains of twenty years ago, that having a stopping train on a main line, isn’t the liability, that it was even a few years ago.

So on the East West Rail Link between Cambridge and Bedford will we be seeing four tph, that stop at all stations in addition to the fast expresses?

In the map that introduced this post, a service to Cambourne is shown.

This Google Map shows the location of Cambourne to the West of Cambridge.

Cambourne is at the top of the map, just South of the A428 road.

The red arrow at the bottom right, indicates the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory,

The East West Rail Link passes to the North of the observatory, which used to use the old track bed, as a track for radio telescopes and then goes to the South of Cambourne.

Perhaps a single track branch line could be built.


A Metro in Cambridge will develop because of these factors

  • Cambridge needs to reach out to the hinterland, as it is growing fast.
  • A high-frequency cross-city line with three important stations in a row will happen.
  • Greater Anglia have bought a lot of five-car Aventras.
  • Aventras will be able to run using onboard energy storage.
  • A lot of the lines radiating from Cambridge have capacity for extra services and are electrified.

But the biggest factor will be that towns and cities around Cambridge will want part of the prosperity.



March 31, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Cambridge University Being Pragmatic About The East West Rail Link?

I must admit, I was a bit surprised, when it was announced in this article in Global Rail News, that the East West Rail Link would go via Sandy between Bedford and Cambridge. This is said.

Network Rail has selected the Bedford-Sandy-Cambridge corridor as its preferred route for the Central Section of the East West Rail project.

The preferred route was chosen from 20 options and will now be developed further with a view to producing a ‘line on a map’ route in May.

They also show this map.

East West Rail Link

East West Rail Link

Various other articles suggest that the route will also be via Bourne Airfield and Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

I have traced the old route of the Varsity Line and very little seems to have been built on the route of the old line. Much too, seems to be on flat Cambridgeshire farmland and farmers are usually easily persuaded by alternative and profitable land uses.

The big problem is the old line is used as the track for the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory‘s Ryle Telescope. I’ve heard several times from astronomers in Cambridge was that it is very important and it was the major reason, why the railway line couldn’t be rebuilt on the old track-bed.

I do wonder, if Cambridge University values a direct link to Oxford highly and that as the Ryle Telescope is getting quite old, that it is better value to move it to allow the railway to be built.

A Quick Look At The Route

I’m starting at the Cambridge end and going East, as that is the area I know better.

The Varsity Line In Cambridge

This Google Map shows how the old Varsity Line connected to Cambridge station.

The Varsity Line In Cambridge

The Varsity Line In Cambridge

Note how the M11 curves to the West of Cambridge. You will notice, that there is a sandy coloured line going West from the motorway, which starts at the second blue market by the kite-shaped field, that identifies the road on the map. This is the disused trackbed of the Varsity Line and after passing under the motorway, through some housing in a cutting and under another road, it turns North to join the main Cambridge to London Rail Line.

Cambridge station is in the North-East corner of the map.

Cambridge Station

This Google Map shows Cambridge station and the rail lines going South from the station.

CambridgeStationAndThe VarsityLine

Note how after going under the bridge at the South End of Cambridge station, the main rail line goes off in a southerly direction pass the sports ground and then under the A1134.

Branching off from this rail line and going slightly to the West, there appears to be a second rail line. This is the trackbed of the Varsity Line, which has been converted into the Cambridge Guided Busway.

Cambridge station is a very busy station and has recently been upgraded with a long pair of island platforms and it is going to get even busier with Cambridge North station opening soon and Thameslink services due to call in a few years time.

The opening of Cambridge North station, may ease access to Cambridge station, as those living in or to the North of Cambridge, will be able to use the second station.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital

I have believed for many years, that there needs to be a Cambridge South station at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. This is the view of many in Cambridge and the surrounding areas.

This Google Map shows Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the land to the West.


In addition to being a large general hospital, Addenbrooke’s is surrounded by major research institutions as the map shows.

It is generally sited to the East of the main railway line between Cambridge and London, which runs North-South down the map, with Cambridge station to the North and the junction where the Cambridge Line to Hitchin and the West Anglia Main Line divide just off the map to the South. The diagonal line to the South-West corner of the map, is the route of the Varsity Line, which has been partially reused for the Cambridge Guided Busway.

But there appears to be plenty of space to build a station for the hospital, which would be on both the main line and the East West Rail Link.

There is scope and space on this site to create a truly world-class station.

  • It would serve the hospital.
  • It would provide services on the West Anglia Main Line to London, Cambridge, Cambridge North, Ely, Kings Lynn and Stansted Airport.
  • Thameslink would provide services to all parts of London and many places in the South like Gatwick Airport.
  • The East West Rail Link would provide services to Bedford, Ipswich, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Oxford and Reading.
  • Cross country services would call, but would passengers use the East West Rail Link and a change at Beford or Milton Keynes?
  • Would the station be connected to Haverhill and Sudbury, by reopening the Stour Valley Railway? This would give Essex good access to the East West Rail Link.

I think that a truly bold station will take the pressure of the current Cambridge station, which is squeezed into the centre of the city.


The Mullard Observatory

The next section West of Cambridge and the M11 is currently the Mullard Observatory.

This Google Map shows the area.

Mullard Observatory

Mullard Observatory

The telescopes seem to be clustered to the north of the track in a triangular grouping around the middle. They used to be strung out along the line. So perhaps, the astronomers don’t need it any more, as their research has moved in a different direction.

Bourne And Gamlingay

From the Observatory, the old line is more or less intact and it curves to the South of Bourne Golf Club and through the village of Gamlingay, which used to have a station. An industrial estate has been built on the trackbed.

A more northerly route could also be taken, if it was desired to have a station to serve Cambourne.

There is certainly a lot of open countryside and a couple of sizeable villages, that could benefit from a station.


The line then goes on to Potton, where this Google Map shows the village, which had a station.



The green scar of the line can be seen, as it curves around the North-West of the village. I wonder if York House was the station.



After Potton, the line goes through the countryside to Sandy, where the old Varsity Line came alongside the East Coast Main Line through Sandy station, before crossing the main line.

This Google Map shows the area.

Sandy, The East Coast Main Line And The Varsity Line

Sandy, The East Coast Main Line And The Varsity Line

Sandy station is towards the top of the map and you can just see how the old line curves around the headquarters of the RSPB.

One possibility in this area, is that there are proposals for a Sandy-Beeston by-pass on the A1, to remove a bottleneck. Surely, if the routes of the by-pass and the railway were considered together, planners might come up with a superior solution.


The original route went via stations at Blunham, Willington and Bedford St. Johns and it still shows on the Google Map.

This Google Map shows the route as it joins the East West Rail Link at Bedford St. Johns station, which is on the Marston Vale Line, which is being incorporated into the East West Rail Link, to form the link between Bedford and Bletchley.

Bedford St Johns Station And The East West Rail Link

Bedford St Johns Station And The East West Rail Link

Note the green scar going between the bus garage (?) and the retail warehouses to the East. This was the old Varsity Line to Sandy.

If it were to be connected directly to the Marston Vale Line as it originally used to be, not all traffic would need to go to Bedford station.


I have some questions.

  1. How many of the old stations at Gamlingay, Potton, Blunham and Willington will be rebuilt?
  2. Will a more northerly alternative route from the Mullard Observatory to Sandy be better?
  3. Will there be a station at Sandy to link the East West Rail Link to the East Coast Main Line?
  4. Will a route be safeguarded to reopen the Stour Valley Line to Haverhill and Sudbury in the future?

Hopefully, these and other questions will be answered, when the definitive route is published.


After writing this, I’m surprised how much of the original line can be reinstated.

Certain factors have helped.

  • The desire of Cambridge to have a station at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
  • A change in direction of the research at the Mullard Observatory or a pragmatic attitude on the part of the University.
  • The need to build a bypass on the A1 at Sandy and Beeston.
  • The ability to thread the railway through Bedford to link up with the Marston Vale Line.

I doubt there’ll be too much demolition of domestic properties or opposition to the route.

I also think, it will be pretty easy to build, as there don’t appear to be many bridges and viaducts.



March 30, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

All Systems Go On The Cambridge Busway

I was sceptical about the Cambridge Busway before it opened and felt that it would probably be better to have reinstated the railway. A group called CASTIRON was formed to promote the railway, but the busway still was built and opened.

Now I read this article, which states that Stagecoach is going to increase srvices on the route. Here’s the first paragraph.

Operator Stagecoach yesterday said it would increase the frequency of departures to every five minutes during peak times, in the hope this will relieve overcrowding and stop passengers being left waiting by buses which are too full to stop.

As the busway is going to link up with the new station at Chesterton and new housing along the route at Northstowe, it doesn’t seem to appear it is going to be a white concrete elephant.

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Cambridge Tries Its Hardest To Discourage Visitors

I changed trains in Cambridge yesterday and as it was a convenient time for a meal, I took the opportunity to go into the centre to have a late lunch in Carluccio’s.

Every time I go to the city, these days, it would appear that the bus stop layout is different and further from the main entrance to the station. And there’s no simple information, which has a map of the various stops and go to bus stop X for the city centre.

The first stop you come to, tells you all about the Cambridge Busway, but I know that the bus-way at the station goes to Addenbrooke’s and not the city centre.

After waiting at the wrong stop for a couple of minutes, only to see a couple of buses I could have taken, go past. So I waited ten minutes, when if there had been proper information, I’d have waited one.

When a bus did arrive, it was the usual scrum at the single door used for all entrance and exit.  Visitors from London, who use the capital’s buses must really fume at the slowness.  It’s even worse for people like me with a Freedom Pass, as you must take it out of your London folder to put it flat on the reader on the bus. Surely,  we could have a touch and enter system based on Oyster technology all over the country now, as it’s been working in London for several years.

I knew where I was going, but I didn’t know exactly where the stop I needed was.  I guessed wrong, as Cambridge buses don’t display the stop names or announce them as all sensible buses do.  It must be a nightmare if you’re blind!

Coming back it was a repeat of the process; guess the stop, ask the driver, fight your way through the scrum and then walk farther than you used, to get to the train station.

It really is rather Kafkaesque and how much does it cost the city in lost visitors?

I suppose the only beneficiaries are the taxi-drivers, as those probably get a lot more business.

August 7, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 3 Comments

Busways And Sat-Navs Don’t Mix

This story from Cambridge on the BBC’s web site, shows an idiot, who got his lorry onto the Cambridge Busway.

The driver is apparently blaming his sat-nav. It should be part of the driving test and especially for those, who drive heavy lorries, that you have the ability to read a map and road signs.

On the subject of sat-navs, some couriers and others seem to have difficulty finding my house using them, as they get directed round the back to the mews.  So in this case, it probably isn’t the sat-nav, but the data it’s loaded with.

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

The Bad Design Of The Cambridge Busway

Over the life of this blog, especially when I lived near to Cambridge, I’ve flagged up the shortcomings of the Cambridge Busway. I wrote this post on the flooding in November 2009.

It seems that flooding is still a problem judging by this article in the Cambridge News.

Surely over three years later, they should have got it right by now!

February 20, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Cambridge Busway Troubles

The Cambridge Busway may be running fairly well now, but it still seems to cause trouble for politicians, as this report shows.

At least though the Edinburgh Tram has come along to give the busway company in the book of bad projects.

January 7, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

The Cambridge Guided Duckway

I found this report about the Cambridge Busway.

May 14, 2012 Posted by | News, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Along the Cambridge Busway

Where I was going was just a short walk from a stop on the new Cambridge Busway, but because I couldn’t find anybody who knew the rules about the busway, I decided to go to my meeting in a taxi.  I did however take the busway back to Cambridge City centre on the way back to the station and took these pictures.

The bus was quite smart with leather seats and wi-fi.

But the busway has a lot of design faults.

  1. There is no information on the busway at  the station.
  2. It would be logical if all buses went via the main bus station at Dummer Street and the rail station.  I assumed this.  When I found myself dumped in the centre, I decided to have lunch and then had to queue up for another bus for the station. I’d have preferred to go straight to the station.
  3. There is no timing on the bus maps, so you have no idea when you might want to ask someone to pick you up.
  4. The bus displays at the stops, don’t say whether they go to the rail station.  They don’t list the  intermediate stops too, as trains do.
  5. As they are new modern buses, why can’t they announce the stops like all London ones do?
  6. The bus map is poor and lacks detail. It does have a text system to find the next bus, but you have to type in 8 letters.  How come London can handle all of the metropolis with just 5 digits! Perhaps people in Cambridge like to have their fingers tested, whereas those in London can only manage 5 digits!

It all smacks of a design that wasn’t put together by the best designer. It is attention to detail, that makes tranportation systems good. London and Sheffield have informastion systems that are so much better.

January 26, 2012 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

The Edinburgh Tram Fiasco Continues

Over the last few years, there have been several local transport prjects in the UK. Most like the London Overground have been completed on time and on budget, with one in London the DLR Extension to Stratford International being a year late.

Two major projects though have gone seriously over budget; the Cambridge Busway and the Edinburgh Tram.

The former is now up and running and most of the reports are positive. Extra buses are supposedly being ordered to cope with demand. But it will be easier to sort out the problems of the cost overruns for a success than a failure.

But the Edinburgh Tram fiasco continues according to this report on the BBC. So for a large cost overrun, Edinburgh will  get what half they originally ordered.  When what they are now getting is completed, passengers arriving at the airport will be unable to take the tram to the City Centre to see the similarly half-finished National Monument. But at least the tram will serve the headquarters of the Royal Bank of UK Taxpayers at Gogar!

At least it has given a lot of work for consultants and material for comedians at the Festival.

August 28, 2011 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment