Bedford to Cambridge
East West Rail (EWR) will connect people in the towns and villages between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge with the region’s main centres of employment and cultural heritage.
The new railway could cut travel times by up to 40 minutes for people living in Bedford who want to travel to Cambridge. Today, journeys between Bedford and Cambridge take 50 to 75 minutes by road and two hours by train. EWR will reduce this to just 35 minutes.
To deliver EWR services between Bedford and Cambridge, we would need to build a new railway in this section. During the 2021 consultation, a range of route alignment options for where the railway line could be located were discussed with communities and stakeholders. Using feedback from the last consultation and further studies, we have concluded that a variation of Alignment 1 – with a station at Tempsford rather than St Neots – offers the best option overall.
Building a new railway between Bedford and Cambridge
We have an emerging preference for a route that connects Bedford and Cambridge via a new station at Tempsford, which we refer to as Alignment 1 (Tempsford variant).
Two brand new stations
Our proposals will bring two new stations to the area – one at Tempsford and another north of Cambourne.
Approaching Cambridge from the South
We have looked again at proposals for how EWR could approach Cambridge from the north or the south and found that a southern approach remains the best solution. This is more likely to unlock economic growth, create jobs, attract investment and support the UK’s economic recovery. Find out more about why below.
Serving Bedford to support prosperity and growth
Our decision for EWR to serve Bedford town centre supports local aspirations for access to more jobs, prosperity and growth. The four-track section of the Midland Main Line that runs through Bedford is one of five areas across that country that’s formally designated as ‘congested infrastructure’. Following consultation feedback, we closely examined whether EWR services can run on the existing Midland Main Line north of Bedford without building additional tracks. We found that an additional two tracks north of Bedford station are required to ensure EWR can provide a reliable service which doesn’t conflict with other train services. Find out more about why below and in our video here.
Proposed Need to Sell Property Scheme
We understand our plans may affect people’s homes and businesses, so we’re supporting them through our new Proposed Need to Sell Property Scheme. This will help property owners who have a compelling reason to sell but are only able to do so at a substantially lower value due to the EWR Project. Eligible owners can apply for their property to be purchased at its unaffected market value. Find out more here.
Reducing the number of residential properties directly affected by a third
In 2021 it was thought that up to 97 residential properties in Bedford may be directly affected by EWR, but further design work has reduced this to 65. We are continuing to look for ways to lower this even further. Find out more in our animation here.
Reducing the need for and height of embankments and viaducts
We’ve identified potential opportunities for reducing the need for, or the height of, embankments and viaducts through South Cambridgeshire.
Why are we proposing this work?
Building a new rail link between Bedford and Cambridge would bring faster and better long-term connectivity across the region. It would open up new journeys, cut travel times, ease congestion on local roads and bring more jobs within reach of local people.
- Strengthen the region’s transport hub and increase connectivity to surrounding areas, jobs and leisure opportunities with the construction of two extra tracks north of Bedford station.
- Contribute to the regeneration of the area immediately around the station, as well as the centre of Bedford.
- Serve Bedford hospital more directly by relocating Bedford St Johns station.
At the 2021 consultation we presented a range of possible route alignment options for where the railway line could be located. Discussions with communities and stakeholders, alongside further technical studies, found that a new variation of Alignment 1 – with a station at Tempsford rather than St Neots – offers the best option overall. We refer to this new route as Alignment 1 (Tempsford variant).
A Tempsford station would be better located to enable a new community to grow, including opportunities to improve biodiversity and give more people access to green spaces. There would also be more opportunity at Tempsford to design the railway so that it could be at the centre of the local travel network including good walking, wheeling for those using mobility aids, and cycling routes.
Importantly this new route alignment would also have the least negative impact on the environment and the least visual impact for local communities in Ravensden, Renhold and Roxton, as well as encouraging economic growth in the area.
We intend to take Alignment 1 (Tempsford variant) forward for further surveys, environmental assessment and design development to help us understand how best to minimise impacts and ensure that this option performs as well as possible. We’ll provide further details at the statutory consultation on the design that we propose to include in our application for development consent to enable you to comment on our proposals.
In 2020 we set out our preferred route option to serve Bedford town centre directly along the Marston Vale Line, via Bedford St Johns and Bedford station, and then the Midland Main Line (MML) north of Bedford station for services towards Cambridge.
This option would allow us to:
We believe the new EWR rail link will enable prosperity and growth for the area of Bedford and will bring with it considerable benefits to people living in and around the town.
Since the 2021 consultation, we’ve looked again at serving central Bedford alongside alternative alignments that pass to the south of the town or re-use parts of the former alignment of the closed Varsity Line.
Both alternative alignments have significant environmental impacts and require land to be taken from parks and other green spaces. Also, bypassing Bedford town centre using alternative routes would also reduce the opportunity to interchange with other railway services, reducing access to destinations further afield.
We’ve also undertaken extensive work to test whether we can run EWR services on the existing MML without building additional tracks. We found that an additional two tracks north of Bedford station is the only viable option because of the current level of congestion on the existing four tracks, which are in an area officially designated as congested by Network Rail. Additional tracks will also shorten commuter journey times and ease congestion on the roads. Find out more here.
We’re talking to anyone whose home or business may be affected and we’re supporting them in in a range of ways including launching the Proposed Need to Sell Property Scheme. We’ve also worked hard to reduce the number of residential properties directly affected by a third, and will continue to look for ways to reduce this even further.
Since the 2021 consultation, we’ve looked again at our proposals for both the northern and southern approaches to Cambridge. Even with considerable improvements to the northern approach – including around cost and environmental impact – our analyses shows that a southern approach is preferred.
It serves the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, which is an unparalleled centre for life sciences of global importance and is home to Addenbrooke's Hospital. Our work found a southern approach is more likely to unlock the region’s potential for transformational economic growth and create jobs, attract investment and support the UK economic recovery.
Why an additional two tracks are needed north of Bedford
This video is a short animation explaining the considerations around serving central Bedford and the constraints using the existing Midland Main Line north of Bedford.Watch video
Why is the southern approach to Cambridge the preferred option?
This video is a short animation explaining the considerations around the approach to Cambridge and serving the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.Watch video
What's next for this section?
We'll provide further details of our developed proposals for how East West Rail will serve Bedford to Cambridge at the statutory consultation which we expect to take place in the first half of 2024.
How will services be delivered?
We’ve designed the delivery of the East West Rail project with the community in mind. Ensuring minimal disruption, while making sure the services are reliable from the start. All to provide the best value for the taxpayer.
To achieve this, we will be introducing services in three "connection stages", with the first services between Oxford and Bletchley/Milton Keynes expected to start running around 2025. To learn more, watch our helpful video below.Watch
Key Documents & Assets
2021 Consultation Maps
The Preferred Route Option Between Bedford and Cambridge: Executive Summary (2020)
The Preferred Route Option Report (2020)
Bedford to Cambridge Route Option Consultation Public Feedback Report (2020)
Bedford to Cambridge Route Option Consultation Public Feedback Report: Appendix 1-10 (2020)
Bedford to Cambridge Route Option Consultation Public Feedback Report: Appendix 11 (2020)
Bedford to Cambridge Route Option Consultation Feedback Report: Appendix 12 (2020)
2019 Bedford to Cambridge Consultation - Consultation Document (2019)
2019 Bedford to Cambridge Consultation - Technical Report (2019)
Route Update Report
Consultation Feedback Report
Economic and Technical Report
Need to Sell Property Scheme Guide
Factsheet: Connecting with Bedford
Factsheet: Approaching Cambridge
Map: Alignments 1 & 9 - Tempsford variant
Map: Route from Bedford to Cambourne
Map: Approaching Cambridge
Video: Why an additional two tracks are needed north of Bedford
Video: Why is the southern approach to Cambridge the preferred option?
At East West Railway Company our role is to oversee construction of the project between Oxford and Bletchley - which is now underway. We're also designing the section of railway between Bletchley and Cambridge.Learn more