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Reverse Beeching

From our Swindon Correspondent:

From the Cambridge Independent

Funding of £760m has been announced to break ground on East-West Rail, the new line that will link Oxford and Cambridge.

The cash from the Department of Transport will be used to lay track along a disused railway line between Bicester and Bletchley, in Buckinghamshire, with services beginning in 2025.

Excuse me? £760m to link Bicester and Bletchley? Other than the fact that that is £50m/mile, which should be the cost of rail lines made from crushed Faberge eggs and unicorn hair, how many people want to travel between Bicester and Bletchley by train? That’s roughly £10K/person in those small towns. OK,that then extends to Oxford, but that allows around 30,000 more people to go by train to Oxford. Which is not a particularly busy commuter metropolis anyway.
The aim is to complete the whole project by the end of the decade, according to the government minister overseeing it.
2 miles per year? Are they going to use canals and horses like Brunel?

Chris Heaton Harris added that it may also mean that the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, a ‘paused’ project for a major road between the two university cities, could remain “‘paused for a very long time” if people “vote with their feet” and choose to use trains to travel instead of private cars.

The funding, announced today (Saturday, January 23) will provide better transport links across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, which the government hopes will become an economic boom area due to the high number of science and technology jobs here.

But how does adding some choo-choos or a fast road help that? There’s already roads, so are they jammed up with people, or not? My guess is not. If they aren’t jammed, you don’t need a railway.
Elsewhere, the new railway will shorten journey times between routes outside of London. Travellers from Oxford for example, will no longer have take a train into the capital and back out again to reach Milton Keynes, but could travel there via Bicester.
Again, what’s the demand for this? How many people want to do this, and would it be cheaper to just hire some chauffeurs to drive each passenger in a Ferrari from Bicester to where they want in Milton Keynes? I doubt it will be any quicker than a car because this only gets you to Bletchley, and then you have to get off a train to get to Milton Keynes, and then get where you want in Milton Keynes.
By 2025, two trains per hour will run between Oxford and Milton Keynes via Bletchley it is claimed.A second section of track could be laid between Bletchley and Bedford by 2028, and the final stretch be completed by 2030.
So, who is going to use this? You finish seeing a client in Milton Keynes and have to call a cab to get to the station. You then get there and just missed a train so have to wait 25 minutes. By the time the train leaves, you could be almost home by car.

These are the things the planning types never grasp about cars. There’s zero friction on the changes. When you change from one road to the other it’s less than a minute. Oh, and you never have to worry about your driver turning up, and your beat up old Golf is more reliable than the trains.

And that’s before we get into the post-Covid situation where even the train operators think there’s going to be a large loss in traffic. You do a Zoom call to the client in Milton Keynes and save yourself the trip.
These trains are going to be pretty much empty. A Mrs Miggins who decided to go to the Ashmolean and a couple of kids.Probably cheaper and more environmentally friendly to put on Ferraris for everyone.
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eris23
eris23
1 month ago

So…this is California’s Bakersfield to Livermore high speed rail in miniature.

Spike
Spike
1 month ago
Reply to  eris23

Even California, though, has realized that when you are losing money on every mile, you can’t make it up on quantity.

Swindon Guy, I’m thinking that prowess in estimating the market for a new service is unmeasured, unrewarded, and unvalued, compared to Looking Like A Visionary.

TD
TD
1 month ago
Reply to  Spike

An early criticism of the California train was that the usage assumptions assumed more riders than the Tokyo – Osaka line

jgh
jgh
1 month ago

But, but… we’ve got to have a train service between the two greatest universities in the world!

jgh
jgh
1 month ago
Reply to  jgh

Nobody’s taken the bait?
“But this train service goes nowhere near Hull” 🙂

dodgy geezer
dodgy geezer
1 month ago

“…So, who is going to use this? You finish seeing a client in Milton Keynes and have to call a cab to get to the station. You then get there and just missed a train so have to wait 25 minutes. By the time the train leaves, you could be almost home by car….” I don’t think that Mr Worstall has quite grasped the situation. This is a Green Bureaucratic decision. It will take several years to come to fruition. By the time it does, cars are going to be very rare, and on their way to being banned (except… Read more »

Bloke on M4
Bloke on M4
1 month ago
Reply to  dodgy geezer

There is no way that’s going to happen. Politicians can piss billions away on rail, but you try taking people’s cars and you’ll see a political force emerge that will stop them.

And once the work from home revolution has done its work, there will be less rail. 52% of rail trips, even more of the income, is commuting. The TOCs think they’re going to lose 20% of people permanently. But that also means roads are quieter, so why take a train instead of a bus or car?

John B
John B
1 month ago

The purpose is to create jobs as per Boris’s promises, and being a railway they are green jobs.

Climan
Climan
1 month ago

This link will be useful for people in The North, no not oop-North, but Northern home counties. It will help them to avoid Londonistan when traveling to Oxbridge. It might also relieve pressure on the outskirts, converting the otherwise useless land between the ivory clusters into a long commuter belt.

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
1 month ago

This is all penny-ante stuff compared with the mind-buggeringly large sums being thrown away on HS2.

ANNRQ
ANNRQ
28 days ago

It will have to be operated using the latest Greta-approved state-of-the-art clockwork trains or with carriages hauled by teams of free-range unicorns.

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