Monday, 30 December 2013

Bicester 29th December 2013

I thought that a visit to Bicester would be as good a place as any to start the new blog.  I can then work back towards Bletchley as time allows.  I had heard that the work to build the new chord linking the former Varsity line to the Marylebone to Birmingham line was underway.  According to the Evergreen 3 website Bicester Town station is to close in February 2014 to permit the upgrading works to be carried out.  However I did not see any notices to this effect whilst I was there.  They are promising twelve weeks notice of the intended closure so I guess it has been put back.  This was my first ever visit to Bicester so I must say I was surprised by the somewhat modest facilties of the Town station.  Quite a short single platform accessed off an industrial road which is not particularly pedestrian friendly.  Probably just about sufficient for the terminus it currently is. As part of Evergreen 3 a new two platform station will be provided which will be essential when the East West route re-opens.
Two shots of the platform looking north east towards the London Road level crossing.  At first glance it appeared the line was double tracked to the buffers seen on the right.  However I know it is single tracked so I am pretty sure the other line must be a head shunt or reversing siding for the extensive Bicester Military Railway located to the south of the town.  
 Looking back from London Road.  Poor angle was due to the low winter sun which I manage to hide behind the trees on the left.  Work will need to be done here to accommodate the future double tracking.
 Looking the other way, the signal will have to be moved.  The whistle sign is for Tubbs Crossing out of sight around the curve.
 Now at Tubbs Crossing looking north east.  Just around the curve is the site of the new Bicester chord where the line swings more to the east.
Again at Tubbs Crossing looking back towards Bicester Town station.  I understand that the bushes have been cut back here to improve visibility for people crossing the line following a tragic accident involving a waste train.  The crossing will be replaced by a pedestrian bridge with facilties for bikes and buggies as part of the Evergreen work.
I then continued on to Gavray Drive and took this shot looking back towards Tubbs Crossing.  I am sure the tree clearance here is to do with Evergreen 3.
 Turning around you can see the work site for the new chord. A large pile of used ballast can be seen in the centre which I believe was rail delivered.  The Marylebone to Birmingham line runs behind the site and crosses the Varsity line on the green bridge.
A closer look at the bridge reveals the top of a smaller arch taking the public footpath
Here is the notice announcing the closure of the same footpath.  It will be reopened via a footbridge ove the new embankment.
 I managed to negotiate a fairly waterlogged entrance to the field when a Chiltern Railways service headed south towards the future junction.
 Looking over towards the bridge a large mound of earth can be seen although I don't believe it is part of the new embankment yet.
 Plant in the work site.  The Varsity line runs behind by the tree line.
 The temporary fencing shows the extent of the site and the location of the future junction.  Due to fairly tight constraints of the site, it looks like the gradient of the new embankment will be quite steep.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

East West Rail and Evergreen 3

Now that the work on the Hitchin Grade Separation project is all but finished with only the drainage work from the viaduct to the River Hiz to be completed, I thought that I might start a new blog on the East West Rail project.   I will also include the Evergreen 3 project as this is uses the western end of the line from Oxford to Bicester.  This work will help facilitate the first section of the East West route and is an integral part of it.  I won't be able to do such frequent updates because of the distances involved.  I thought I would start by taking a look at the developments in Bicester but this involved a drive of an hour and a quarter so this will not be possible that often.

The East West Rail project has been very slow to get going but now I think the momentum is picking up.  It has always been a source of dismay locally that the route was lost in 1967.  With virtually all other east west links also closed, if you want to travel cross country, then you have to travel into London and back out again. The project was formally started in 1995 by Ipswich council as the East West Rail Consortium.   It now consists of all local authorities along the route plus local businesses and other interested parties.  When it is finally completed, it will provide an orbital rail route that will link the Great Western, West Coast, Midland, East Coast, and Great Eastern main lines.  It will even take in the stub of the Great Central.

The western section is now confirmed and should be operational by 2017.  This will mean the section from Oxford to Bedford will be open throughout and will include links to Aylesbury and Milton Keynes.  The pressure for the central section by East West Rail Consortium and Railfuture has finally resulted in some positive news.  The government has announced its support for the this section by including it in its Tech Connected document.  Feasibility studies are to be carried out to decide on the most suitable routes.

I will endeavour to report on developments as they happen and also take a look at what is actually left of the various routes that will or could be used.  This will probably include the Oxford to Bletchley section, Bletchley to Bedford, Bedford to Sandy, Sandy to Cambridge and Bedford to Hitchin.

I would also welcome any contributions from anyone interested in the project and would be happy to acknowledge this in the blog.

East West Consortium website:-
Railfuture website:-
Tech Connected document:-