Cambridge-Oxford rail link could cut congestion on London lines

Revival of an east-west rail link in England may help to cut congestion on London lines as jobs in the area grow by up to 400,000, a report says.

The East West Rail Consortium (EWRC) also predicted population growth between Oxford and Cambridge of 1.1m.

Network Rail welcomed the report that could see restoration of the Varsity Line between the two cities.

A business case will now be made to include the scheme in 2019-24 rail industry investment plans.

EWRC said it would work closely with the Department for Transport and Network Rail who will examine the engineering, operational and planning feasibility and cost of several potential route options.

'Exciting opportunity'

The report said the economic benefits would come from the rail line cutting east-west travel times, which are currently directed through congested London stations.

The line could also boost local economic growth along its length where jobs are expected to increase by up to 400,000.

Bob Menzies, from Cambridgeshire County Council and chair of the EWRC central section steering group, said: "Now that the western section between Oxford, Bedford and Milton Keynes is going ahead, we are working to develop the business case for the central section to complete the missing link.

"This study shows there is significant economic growth potential that could be unlocked through new rail services."

The former line between Bedford and Cambridge has been dismantled, the land sold and sections used for other purposes, including housing.

"This means that we are looking at constructing a brand new stretch of railway," Mr Menzies said.

Graham Botham, from Network Rail, said: "We welcome the exciting opportunity to unlock the economic growth of the region."

  • This story was changed on 19 August to amend the number of jobs the report predicts, from 600,000 to 400,000.

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