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East West Rail – Central Section

The benefits of the proposed rail link from East West Rail Western Section to Cambridge – and how we’re working with local groups to help determine the route

The Central Section will not only provide a direct rail service between the Bedford area and Cambridge but also introduce a much-needed direct link between Oxford and Cambridge to improve journey times.

Network Rail has been working to identify a route to extend the Western Section of East West Rail to Cambridge, allowing it to connect with the East Coast Mainline and enable train services to operate between Oxford and Cambridge and onto Norfolk and Suffolk. The geographical corridor of Bedford to Cambridge via Sandy was confirmed in February 2016 as offering the best value for all.

The selection of this corridor followed careful evaluation of the options with input from rail industry stakeholders and regional working groups, including the local authorities in the East West Rail Consortium and the Department for Transport. Further analysis and consultation will take place in the future to determine options for the ‘line on a map’ route – information about this will be provided on the Network Rail Consultations website.

Easier journeys across Britain

The new Central Section will improve rail transport between the Bedford area and Cambridge and provide a direct rail service between Oxford and Cambridge. A typical train journey between these two vibrant cities can currently take two and a half to three hours; initial journey time predictions for a direct route are one to one and a half hours.

Reduced journey times and increased journey options will also provide access to wider affordable housing and a growing jobs market in Oxford, Cambridge, Bedford, Milton Keynes and Sandy. The new Central Section will help people and goods to move around the region by supporting the existing economy and encouraging future investment.

Although a date has not yet been confirmed for the Central Section rail link to open, the illustrative programme, which assumes funding and consents approval, shows a possible completion of the scheme in the early 2030s.