The English Regional Transport Association (ERTA)’s predecessor organisation the Bedfordshire Railway and Transport Association (BRTA) led the way following the demise of the idea of a station immediately north of Bedford at various sites in the mid to late 1980’s at Cut Throat Lane, Bedford, Oakley and Milton Glebe. These floundered for a variety of reasons.
BRTA organised meetings and did surveys and reported these at the time to councillors, media outlets and via the old websites. Our take was and remains that stations north of Bedford are needed as part of and included with a new local station stopping service in addition to principal limited stopper fast services. So electrification of the Midland Main Line North of Bedford holds the prospect out for improve fast services and also the reintroduction after 60 odd years of a local stopping service especially between Bedford and Leicester, Corby, Peterborough and Melton Mowbray and back via Syston to Leicester for example. Another arm could be the reopening of the freight only Knighton-Burton line with new stations at Ashby de la Zouch and Coalville, enabling Bedford-Burton – Derby by an alternative route.
Stations we would like to see is as follows:
- Oakley (on land between Highfield and Lowfield land if development does not beat us to it).
Cut Throat Lane is considered too near to existing Bedford Midland and now the bypass slices through the land formerly allocated and is ill-judged in our view. Far better to have Oakley served off the A6 bypass slip roads, so no traffic through the villages. Of course, any traffic which goes though Bromham and Oakley to get to it, should be directed to use the new bypass which is what it is there for.
By spacing stations out you establish an even pattern, create more loading and parking capacity. However, London bound commuting is overcrowded and limited track and terminal spaces in central London means we need to turn the map upside down and pin point alternative routes and destinations to the London area such as:
- Reopen the Dudding Hill Line (links with Acton, Heathrow, Windsor and Eton, Southern Region and Reading/Thames Valley.
- Electrify Bedford-Bletchley and integrate services with Southern for Bedford-Watford (accesses the tube via the new Croxley Link)
- Utilise the Carlton Road tunnels to run directly onto the Gospel Oak Line for North and East London and Thames Gateway.
- Rebuild a new conventional rail link from Guildford-Cranleigh-Horsham-Three Bridges and via Shoreham-Brighton for alternative end to end Bedford/Midland Main Line- South Coast.
This may sound farfetched, but the current system is creaking at the seams and something must give to accommodate more people travelling by train and by giving choices and competitive price gains to bypass London by rail frees up seats for those who must go to Central London
Other Stations North of Bedford which should be studied, looked at and lands protected for access roads, parking and growth should be:
- Sharnbrook: Better road link off the A6 needed and bus integration via Templers Way.
- Wymington: Should have a station with southern expansion of Rushden part of its catchment as Woollaston.
- Irchester for Rushden could be dubbed ‘Irchester and Rushden Parkway’. A separate rail linking Rushden with Irchester Station could be looked at and maybe the preservation outfit could link up there akin to Cholsey and Wallingford Lines.
- Burton Latimer and Finedon combined station north of Wellingborough. Ideally a new link north of Wymington loop would traverse the Nene Valley and cut the curves at Wellingborough for more capacity and faster movements. With diversity you can have plenty of trains to serve plenty of principal places and also bypasses to serve outlying areas which are development sites now. New station would serve both communities and draw off the A6 with links to Irthingborough for example.
- Desborough. A new site is required and this needs to be looked at carefully. It was suggested a new curve linking Midland Main Line North with the Corby line would enable a Leicester commuter orbital loop line with Melton Mowbray being the northern arcing to it.
- Kibworth – a growth area needing a station between Market Harborough and Wigston Junction.
- South Wigston Midland Main Line to compliment the local halt on the Leicester-Nuneaton Line.
Infrastructure: A Kettering-Birmingham commuter service could run direct via the Leicester south curve to give alternative commutes to just London, Bedford, Luton and Leicester. A new ‘Manton Curve’ could be looked at for Kettering-Corby-Peterborough, although a great way round, would enable utilisation of common train stock on a loop from London St Pancras International Thameslink subsurface station-Peterborough and loop back via Bedford.
Tracks between St Pancras and Brackfriars are designed for four 12 coach trains per hour x 24 hours per day x 7 days per week. Clearly operations nor lifestyles are not there yet! Everything is in a context of growth and more options for people is a healthy thing, than just chucking £billions at London and leaving cross-country routes and choices neglected or nonexistent by rail, which locks-in congestion to trunk road systems and urban areas putting pressure and stress of cost management systems to stem urban parking and land use balances.
Conclusion: This list is not exhaustive but shows that the strain and conflict could be eased with these measures seen in the round. They compliment, not detract other schemes we are promoting like the Cobbler Line/South Midlands Link and East-West Rail for example. Ideas such as reopening part of the old Bedford-Hitchin line with a western flank bypassing Shefford and running directly to loop the Luton Airport, lines off to the Hitchin Flyover and linking the Midland Main Line at the Toddington/M1 area and south of Luton Hills onwards for Harpenden should be seen as separate schemes, studied separately and a contribution from the Airlines and Airport for studying and making the case should be expected. In all this, capacity for freight and de-cluttering our roads, is a prime task the railways need to be given and Franchises, if not abolished, incentivised to be lead players in nurturing these projects, not just day to day operations and pattern maintenance, when clearly it is creaking at the seams and sweating as a system of basic operation. Something has to give and ERTA takes the view that expansion and more railways is the answer, not more of the same dressed up ever more cogently dubbed ‘modernisation’, which has de-manned stations, eroded passenger service, attention and care to a security and bureaucratic system which delivers mixed messages, inconsistent services and fares!
What you can do: If you agree with any or all of what we are expressing here you can:
- 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 focus’ or skills. Please see Get Involved (Volunteering) page for more information.
- Area Reps convene meetings, gather people together, inform teams and help move projects along. It could be a new station, it could be a new piece of railway. It can start with you, as all progress and advocacy of improvement must. Please see Get Involved (Volunteering) page for more information.