Reaction to the plans for the restored East West Rail Link

11 August 2017

We fully support the re-instatement of the rail line between Cambridge and Oxford via MK - the East West Rail link (EWRL).  We have been campaigning for this for 35 years. 

The following points are made starting in the west and moving east.  

Quainton Road station

The facility to board and alight from trains at Quainton Road station, north of Waddesdon, should be retained so that there can be access to the Bucks Railway Centre for special services.  Link to the East West Rail project site.

Steeple Claydon

There should be a station, or at least passive provision for one, where the line crosses Addison Rd south-west of Steeple Claydon. This would serve not only Steeple Claydon itself but also the new housing developments at Calvert Green and the HS2 Infrastructure Maintenance Depot.

Staff working at the depot could commute via the railway rather than adding traffic to the minor roads in the area.  Link to the East West Rail project site.

Bletchley

In the long term a North to East chord will be required at Bletchley to allow trains to operate between MK Central and Bedford/Cambridge. In the short term trains should be able to operate between MK Central and Bedford by reversing in one of platforms 5, 7 or 8. Platform 5 already has this capability but is also used for other purposes, including being the only southern access to the carriage sidings and Relief line 2. Consequently it may not always be available. The new high level platforms 7 and 8 should also be reversible to increase flexibility. 

Just to the west of the flyover and viaduct, near Coleridge Close, a pair of crossings are proposed, one facing, one trailing. We will refer to these as Blue Lagoon junction. Both tracks from Blue Lagoon junction to Denbigh Hall South Jn and to Cambridge Flyover Single Line Jn should be bi-directional. This would enable trains to operate between MK

Central and Bedford and vice versa by reversing in one of the high level platforms 7 or 8. This may already be part of the proposal but it is not clear from the plans available. 

We welcome the proposal for a link bridge from the main station to the new high level platforms. We also welcome the lift for platform 8 going down to Saxon St level, providing passive provision for an eastern entrance to the station. 

However the route for passengers between platforms 7 and 8 seems to force passengers to descend and ascend further than necessary. The steps descend about 6m to the level of the haul road, there is then a path under the viaduct and another set of steps, about 6m, up to platform 8. The steps only need to descend about 3m on each side. They could then be linked by an elevated walkway under the viaduct about 3m above the level of the haul road.

The lifts would also provide access to this elevated walkway. This would be more convenient for passengers, they only have to ascend/descend half the distance, and may even be cheaper to construct because the staircases are only half the length.  Link to the East West Rail project site.

Fenny Stratford

The second track and platform should be reinstated at Fenny Stratford station and over the level crossing. Eventually the whole of the single track section from Fenny Stratford Bletchley Flyover jn to the single line Jn east of the A5 bridge will need to be redoubled.

However widening the bridge over the A5 will be expensive and can be left until needed because of increased traffic on the Central section. But reinstating the double track through the Fenny Stratford area is relatively cheap and straightforward so it should be done now.

It would increase the reliability and punctuality of services because trains stopping at Fenny Stratford station would not hold up trains travelling in the opposite direction.  Link to the East West Rail project site.

Bow Brickhill

The level crossing at Bow Brickhill station should be replaced by a bridge. This is straightforward to do with space to the west of the road. It will need to be done eventually because of increased traffic on the Central section. It should be done now so that residents can benefit from it earlier rather than later. There is a proposal to develop the field to the SW of the crossing for employment. This will increase pressure on the crossing and should make a contribution towards the cost of the the bridge. Link to the East West Rail project site.

Woburn Sands

The level crossing at Woburn Sands station should be replaced by a bridge. The existing level crossing is a cause of considerable delay and congestion to road users, including buses. Doubling the number of trains for the western section of EWR will exacerbate this.

There is a large housing development currently being built at Wavendon just to the north of the level crossing. The extra road traffic from this and other nearby developments will also increase the pressure on the level crossing.  

Replacement by a bridge is not straightforward because there is very little space available. However the longer it is left the more buildings will be constructed nearby and the harder and more expensive it will get. It will need to be done eventually because of increased rail traffic when the Central sectioned EWR opens. It should be done now so that residents can benefit from it earlier rather than later. 

If the level crossing is not to be replaced by a bridge then in the short term changes should be made to reduce the barrier down time. Considerable congestion is caused now. When the number of trains increases this would become worse. 

In the eastbound direction the platforms should be staggered, as at Bow Brickhill. This requires the eastbound platform to be relocated to the east side of the level crossing.

Instead of lengthening the existing eastbound platform by 73m a new 100m long platform would be built on the east side of the level crossing. The cost would not be much more.

The barrier can then be raised as soon as the train has arrived, rather than having to wait for it to depart. 

This should save more than 1 minute of barrier down time for each closure.

In the westbound direction another signal should be installed a few hundred metres before the level crossing. Currently the barrier has to be down before trains can leave Aspley Guise station. With another signal a train can leave Aspley Guise station on a yellow. The barrier can then be lowered and the new signal set to green. As long as the new signal is green before the train reaches it there is no delay to the train. This should save 1-2 minutes of barrier down time for each closure. Link to the East West Rail project site.

Electrification

It is regrettable that electrification of EWR has been dropped. We are now back to the situation that EWRC had reached more than 5 years ago. Five years have passed and there is no further progress than where we were then.

The debacle over GWML electrification has resulted in the Didcot-Oxford section being put on hold indefinitely. We can accept that there is little point in doing Oxford-Bedford before Didcot-Oxford.

However Oxford-Bedford should be made electrification-ready during this phase. That means ensuring that all overbridges and structures have sufficient clearance for OHLE to be installed later.

Any bridges requiring replacement should be rebuilt now while the Bicester-Bletchley section of the line is not in use rather than having to close the line later when it is in operation.  Also NR and DfT should commit to electrifying Oxford-Bedford at the same time as Didcot-Oxford. Link to the East West Rail project site. 

Alan Francis on behalf of the MK Green Party

11/08/2017






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