The Anonymous Widower

Oxford’s Nimbys Are Getting Angry!

I keep finding articles on the web, like this article on the Oxford Times, which is entitled First Person: The Campaign To Keep Oxfordshire As It Is Now.

The title says it all.

It is all about opposition to the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, which everybody wants in someone else’s back-yard.

My feelings are as follows.

  • A fully-electrified freight route should be built between Southampton and the West Coast Main Line, preferably with 25 KVAC overhead wiring.
  • The East West Railway should provide at least two fast trains per hour between Heathrow and Cambridge, via Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford.
  • I would accelerate the construction of the East West Railway.

Only as a last project, would I build the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway.

April 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Would You Trust Your Weight On A Thirty Metre Long Plastic Bridge?

I might as I’m only just over sixty kilograms, but others might not!

But never underestimate the power of World Class engineering.

This article in The Construction Index is entitled Mabey and Arup Launch Plastic Modular Bridge.

The bridge has the following characteristics.

  • Built of metre long sections bolted together.
  • Up to thirty metre spans.
  • Installed without heavy machinery.
  • The bridge is 70% lighter than steel.
  • Low maintenance

The first bridge has been installed over the railway at a Site of Special Scientific Interest In Oxford.

I feel that Arup have designed this bridge system for purposes other than permanent structures.

This Google Map shows the centre of Tadcaster.

The road bridge that connects the two parts of the town was swept away by floodwater, as this BBC report, which details the destruction and rebuilding shows.

The new system couldn’t replace a road bridge, but there must be many instances around the world, after a an earthquake or floods, where the first thing that the rescuers need is a bridge to access a destroyed town or village.

The size and low weight of this bridge system, means it could be an early arrival.

There is more about the Pedesta bridge on Mabey’s web site.


March 18, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | 3 Comments

An Understated Headline

This article on Business Insider is entitled A rail link between Oxford and Cambridge could help create a massive tech hub in the UK.

Could is not the word I’d use!

This page on the Government web site, contains a summary of the report, on which the article is based.

This is the second paragraph of the report.

The Commission’s central finding is that a lack of sufficient and suitable housing presents a fundamental risk to the success of this area. Without a joined-up plan for housing, jobs and infrastructure across the corridor, it will be left behind its international competitors. By providing the foundations for such a strategy, new east-west transport links present a once in a generation opportunity to secure the area’s future success.

As housing is so important to any development, this is crucial. The interim report makes a series of recommendations. This is the first.

  • Government should go ahead with East West Rail’s initial phase, a new link cutting journey times by more than half on the route from Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes, ensuring it is delivered before 2024; and it should invest in developing as soon as possible detailed plans for both the next phase of East West Rail (which would complete the link to Cambridge) and for a new Oxford-Cambridge Expressway.

So why is the Government farting about?

I blame the following.

  • The route via Bedford, contains lots of great-crested newts, in all the disused brick works.
  • The name; East West Rail Link, doesn’t have North in it.
  • Oxford doesn’t want a railway, that might encourage more visitors who would interfere with academic life.
  • The Sir Humphries of this world went to one of two universities; Oxford or Cambridge. They believe the two academic cities shouldn’t be connected and certainly not via Milton Keynes.
  • Addenbrooke’s hospital has objected, as it will bring lots of patients from the route to their world-class facilities.
  • It doesn’t go near Islington for the Labour Party or Edinburgh for the SNP.
  • Democracy

The Chinese would have built it last week or possibly yesterday, as it calls at Bicester Village!




November 19, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Chiltern Are Being Very Serious

This article in the Oxford Mail is entitled Train timetable released for new Oxford to London Marylebone route.

This is said.

The new timetable shows services running every 30 minutes, starting at 6.02am from Oxford and returning at 23.10pm.

The line will open on Monday, December 12.

That is certainly a passenger magnet of a timetable.

Looking at the timetable of both Chiltern and Great Western,

  • Both services run at least two trains per hour (tph) all day.
  • Both services run fairly late in the evening.
  • Great Western has the fastest trains, with some doing the journey in under an hour.

It will certainly be interesting to see how these two heavyweights slug it out.

But this is only Round 1One.


  • In December 2018, Crossrail services between Paddington and Abbey Wood, via Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf start.
  • In May 2019, Crossrail services between Paddington and Shenfield start.
  • In December 2019, full Crossrail services start.
  • The East West Rail Link will open.
  • Oxford to Didcot should be electrified, allowing electric trains to Oxford.

These developments may appear to favour Great Western services over Chiltern, but I doubt that Chiltern will sit back and do nothing.

So what will Chiltern do?


What is needed is a comprehensive plan for Chiltern’s future.

I can’t believe that they’re not working on one!

It could include the following.

  • Line improvements to reduce journey times between Marylebone and Oxford.
  • Improvements to allow the longest possible locomotive-hauled sets to run the route.
  • Development of West Hampstead Interchange.
  • Creation of a second terminus at Old Oak Common.

One or both of the last two options will have to be implemented, due to the lack of capacity at Marylebone and that station’s bad connectivity.

But what would I do?

The Southern end of the Chiltern Main Line needs better connectivity and the best way to do this would be to link it to Crossrail.

When Crossrail opens to Paddington in December 2018, the direct link I wrote about in Paddington Is Operational Again, will enable passengers taking the Bakerloo Line from Marylebone to change easily to Crossrail.

Together with line improvements and longer trains, this should handle the traffic for a few years.

It is interesting to look at a few journey times.

  • Chiltern has trains scheduled between Marylebone and High Wycombe in around 24-28 minutes.
  • Crossrail services from Paddington will take 27 minutes to Sloughbold step of creating a Crossrail .
  • Crossrail services from Paddington will take 45 minutes to Reading.

I would take the bold step of creating a Crossrail branch to High Wycombe.

  • High Wycombe would receive 4 tph from Crossrail.
  • There could be cross-platform interchange between Crossrail and Chiltern services to Oxford and Birmingham.
  • The Acton-Northolt Line would be double-tracked and electrified to connect Crossrail at Old Oak Common to the Chiltern Main Line at Northolt Junction.
  • The Chiltern Main line would be electrified from Northolt Junction to High Wycombe.
  • Chiltern’s Oxford and Birmingham services could use Class 88 electro-diesel locomotives, to take advantage of the limited electrification.
  • Extra services could run from High Wycombe to Oxford and Birmingham, if traffic required more capacity.

Except for the electrification and some track layout changes, there is no substantial investment required in new lines and stations.

If this approach is taken, there will probably be eough eletrification on the Chiltern routes to use Aventra trains with an IPEMU-capability to provide the services out of Marylebone.


October 25, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Oxford Now Wants Silent Track

Network Rail must rue the day they agreed to extend the Chiltern Line to Oxford, as the locals have done everything they can to tell Network Rail, that they don’t want the new railway. I wrote about it in July 2015, in Network Rail’s Problems In Oxford.

This article in the Oxford Mail was published yesterday. This title is.

City council bosses to force Network Rail to install Silent Track on another stretch of North Oxford railway.

Which is a good precis of the article.

So what is silent track?

This article on Railway Technology is entitled Tata Steel’s SilentTrack to reduce noise levels at London Blackfriars station.

It gives a sensible explanation.

I know something about noise and vibration and feel very strongly that we should do what we can to minimise noise, where it causes problems.

Noise from a railway comes from several sources.

  • The track
  • Diesel locomotives and multiple units.
  • Pantographs on electric locomotives and multiple units.
  • Freight wagons.

All contribute to a various degree.

In my view, the worst noise comes from diesel locomotives like the noisy and smelly Class 66 locomotives and there is not much point on spending millions on silent track and then allowing these to run through sensitive areas.

The sooner lines like this one through North Oxford are electrified the better.


October 13, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Slow Progress On Electrification To Oxford

A few piles have started to appear on the line between Didcot and Oxford.

But a guy on the station, said Oxford won’t be electrified soon.

May 4, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Report from Sir Peter Hendy to the Secretary of State for Transport on the Replanning of Network Rail’s Investment Programme

This report is crucial to a lot of reconstruction work continuing on railways in parts of the UK.

I’ve put the link, so I can find the report easily.

Here’s a taster of what the report contains.

This extract is entitled Case study – Aristotle Lane, Oxford and talks about the problems of closing a private level crossing in Oxford.

Network Rail planned to install a replacement footbridge over the Oxford to Banbury Line north of Oxford Station and close an adjacent private level crossing for safety reasons. People walking from a nearby car park, across some allotments to the other side of the tracks, used the level crossing. The new bridge will have a link to the allotments removing the need for people to cross the tracks.

The level crossing is not a public right of way and the rights to use it are owned by Oxford City Council. As part of the East West Rail (phase 1) improvement scheme, Chiltern Railways made an application in 2009 to close the level crossing as part of a wider project to upgrade the railway line.

Objections from allotment holders at the Public Inquiry meant that the approval was not granted. This meant that Network Rail needed to pursue a separate planning application in order to complete the work and deliver Marylebone to Oxford services.

Efforts to close the crossing and deliver the scheme continued. Meetings were held in 2012 between Network Rail, ORR and the Council to find a solution. Finally, in 2014 the principle to close this one level crossing was granted, but with the conditions that Network Rail had to fund and construct better access to the allotments, arrange a land swap so the local school could be expanded and to fund and build a new car park. All of these require further, and separate, planning permissions.

A planning application was submitted in May 2014 and approved a year later after three separate planning committee presentations. Construction of the bridge is now planned to start in January 2016 with completion in September 2016. The level crossing will then be closed seven years after the first application.

Kafka is certainly alive and well and living in Oxford.

For more information on this fiasco/farce/cock-up/vexacious litigation/waste of money (delete as appropriate!) read this article in the Oxford Mail, entitled Network Rail changes its plan for new Aristotle Lane bridge after protests.

Some of the comments are priceless.

I am very much of the opinion that all level crossings should be shut on safety grounds.  If there are serious objections, then surely the railway should be closed until an agreed solution is negotiated.

December 13, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Oxford Or Oxford Parkway Station?

I ask this question, as the new Oxford Parkway station opens on the twenty-sixth of this month.

I have just looked at the times and it would appear that the half-hourly services between Marylebone and Oxford Parkway, will take about an hour.

The current service between Paddington and Oxford station isn’t a consistent service, with some services taking forty minutes and other direct services taking an hour longer.

So for the next few months, until Chiltern Railways hopefully arrive in Oxford station in Sprint 2016, it’ll very much be a question of personal convenience and preference.



October 15, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

From Oxford To Birmingham

As there wasn’t much of interest to photograph in Oxford, I grabbed myself some gluten-free sandwiches and a drink in Marks and Spencer at the station and took a train to my next destination, Birmingham New Street.

I’ve never done that trip before on the Cross Country Route via Banbury and it was an easy journey of about an hour.

I missed photographing all of the work near Harbury, which is reported here on the BBC. It was a major landslip that closed the railway for some weeks.

As we approached Birmingham, the train seemed to take a circuitous route into Birmingham and at one point, the train passed behind Birmingham City’s football ground.

We were on the Camp Hill Line, which is being proposed for passenger services, according to Wikipedia.

At least such a project would probably be appreciated in Birmingham.

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

Network Rail’s Problems In Oxford

Oxford is going to be a big rail hub with  over the next few years the following projects being completed or at least underway.

1. Chiltern Railways from Oxford Parkway to Oxford station. Services to Oxford Parkway station will start on October 26th 2015, with services to Oxford city centre starting in spring 2016. I’ll believe the last part of that, when a Chiltern Railways train takes me to Oxford. When I visited in March 2015, little seemed to be happening at Oxford station in preparation for the arrival of this service.

2. Oxford station to be substantially upgraded with more platforms and possibly two island platforms for through trains. Again in March 2015, little seemed to be happening.

3. Chiltern Railways from Oxford station to the Science Park on the Cowley branch.

4. Electrification between Didcot and Oxford.

5. The creation of the East-West Rail Link

But according to the August 2015 of Modern Railways, they are having severe problems in the area North of the station, which I explored in a walk in March 2015. This is said.

On top of that, there is a hint of exasperation with the local authorities about the glacial pace of the planning process:  it took two and a half years to get approval for a pedestrian crossing to replace a footbridge for Chiltern’s mew line to the city centre, because allotment holders used to wheeling barrows of compost across the line were complaining about the new up-and-down route they would have to take over the bridge. New railway staff accomodation in Oxford is mired in similar planning mud.

Cambridge have upgraded their railways in recent years, and although they have had delays on the new Cambridge North station, there doesn’t seem to have been the same planning mud.

The question has to be asked if the good burghers of Oxford would prefer that money was spent on improving transport infrastructure in more welcoming places. The writer obviously feels strongly as he goes on to say this.

While not wishing to stand in the way of democracy , Network Rail is pointing out that there is a window of opportunity for modernising the route to Oxford that could be lost unless local authorities embrace it wholeheatedly. With NR’s spending plans under pressure, there is a danger that Oxford will be put in the “too difficult” pigeonhole and the caravan will move on. Then it would really be back to the 1970s, with changing at Didcot becoming the best option to reach Paddington at some times of day.

I had a friend who lived in Oxford and he used to say that the Council liked to keep cars out of the City. Perhaps, it is more fundamental than that, and the Council would prefer to keep everybody out of the city, so they can continue to lead their cloistered lives, untroubled by the Twentieth Century, let alone the twenty-first.

Do the same people, who blame Network Rail for their well-documented problems, like these at Oxford and those at Manchester, fully support the improvements in the first place or do they really want money to be spent on their own pet projects?

We certainly need a planning system that allows people to air their views and protest, but also one that takes more account of the good of the majority after all contra-arguments have been rejected.

July 27, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 3 Comments