ERTA is interested mainly in strategic and principal matters but in the case of the Marston Vale Railway we make an exception because it is the buckle in the belt of the East-West Rail project.
There is a sense that if the Marston Vale is doing well, then there is always the hope, that as much as possible of the arms and legs of the full Oxford-Cambridge Railway, will one day be added to it again, making more of the line as a strategic through and cross-country route. However the railway as it is, is significant, linking as it does the Midland Main Line (MML) at Bedford and the West Coast Main Line (WCML) at Bletchley. Some have settled into a localism on the railway but it is a through route now and not some dead-end branch line. We have to be careful that our snapshot take on the status of the line as now, does not become preserved in time, rather than it being an evolving railway, adapting and growing to be as much a local asset and relevant as a carrier of people and goods as possible. In 1984 the old Bedford-Cambridge railway station St John’s was closed and a new halt was built under Ampthill Road Bridge. All well and good for the purposes hitherto, but if there is to be a line from the east again, it makes the matter of reopening the old St John’s important to consider and retain as an option. However some baulk at this and thus limit and make harder the reopening of the line and its fit with what is there at present. Some revision may be necessary and new opportunities may present themselves such as a halt nearer the South Wing Hospital on the old Hitchin alignment, than where it is now for example. These things have to be kept under review, and a flexible pro-rail growth stance adopted, otherwise we thwart progress, stagnate and become locked-in to limited vision.
Improvements we would like to see are:
- Extension of the local shuttle service to Milton Keynes. Reversal out of platform 5 is now possible and now a push for normalisation and paths to enable the 3 miles to be traversed is required.
- Electrification of the line and integrated services by same or another operator to Watford Junction services. With a new curve, these trains could run onto and into St Albans Abbey Station giving more choice and flexibility. It would also enable direct rail travel from Leighton Buzzard to the county town without a change of train. It would give more commuting options both ways.
- Lengthening of the halts at Kempston Hardwick, Stewartby, Aspley Guise and Bow Brickhill to 4 coach length to enable a 4 coach EMU to call at them as a part of number 2.
- Multiple operators for the line, giving a variety of services and choices: East-West Rail semi fast, local shuttle to MK Central, electric trains to Watford and possibly through other services from Leicester/Corby to Watford, Aylesbury and Oxford for example as part of a new Cross Country service pattern avoiding London and Birmingham.
- A line born freight strategy to generate freight from the line and across the line bringing revenue to the line. Remember, trains of freight by rail cuts the number of lorries on our roads. That saves energy, time and cost. More should be done to regenerate rail based activity at Forders Sindings in particular including:
- regional based recycling centre of bulky and household waste and rubbish for energy and recycling
- Covenata Incinerator should be linked to rail from day one and the ash taken out by rail for redeployment.
- A ballast recycling and recovery centre for recycling used rail track, sleepers and products. So much is left line-side these days, causing an eyesore, a potential hazard and security issue.
- A twin track light maintenance depot and stabling point – if Chiltern or another wants to be based on the line for operational reasons, what a location! Saves running empty back to Aylesbury or wherever. A washer plant and 12 coach waitover could also be used by Thameslink trains. The line becomes more versatile if electrified. Freight trains could waitover off main lines in a quiet rural setting, cutting noise blight in urban areas after dark.
- We applaud the commitment to a Sunday service, but new and suitable rolling stock for the line is badly needed, capable to taking multiple bikes and ideally bringing back a guards van in the design of new secondary and branch-line stock to enable more to be carried by rail safely and with less hassle than current arrangements dictate.
- As this is a leisure line, a move to a tea-trolley service for passengers and rolling stock which enables that, would be a gem as well as retention in rolling stock design of a WC. This is a leisure line and a variety of people and users for a variety of purposes want to use it more and bring their own baggage with them. This must be catered for. Likewise a lift to Platform 6 and bringing it into DDA compliance would boost operational flexibility and growth at Bletchley.
What you can do: If you agree with any or all of what we are expressing here you can:
- Let us know which suggestions listed here you particularly welcome or provide us with any other feedback, please see Contact Us page
- Join ERTA – every member helps make us a louder shout for more of what we may wish for. Please see Membership page for more information.
- Offer time and talent – if you want to get involved we have volunteer opportunities and whilst we welcome reliability and enthusiasm, we welcome any special focuses or skills. Please see Get Involved (Volunteering) page for more information.