Cambridge MP Julian Huppert calls for 'varsity' bike link to Oxford

Plans to reopen Oxford-Bedford-Cambridge line already underway

by John Stevenson   March 18, 2014  

Cambridge (CC licensed by mariosp)

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert says that plans for a rail link between Oxford and Cambridge should include a 77-mile ‘cycle superhighway’ connecting the two university cities.

Part of the rail link, between Oxford and Bedford, has already been approved. This will involve reopening the ‘Varsity’ rail line between the towns. But the Bedford to Cambridge leg will require a change of route as the former line is now blocked by development.

Backed by Cambridge Cycling Campaign, Dr Huppert has called for a feasibility study to be conducted into including a bike route in the rail plans.

Dr Huppert told Cambridge News: “Any idea which has the potential to encourage cycling and improve safety is worth investigating further.

“It is so important when adding to or improving the country’s railway network that we make sure we look at all related issues and improving facilities for cycling and pedestrians must be included.

“Whether it is possible to include a cycle super highway along the whole stretch of the route is debatable but I would definitely like to see it considered for the Varsity line. As a cycling city it makes sense that investment in a rail line which serves Cambridge should take cyclists into account.”

A spokesman for the cycling campaign said: “We support the creation of high quality cycle routes between towns and cities and would support a Varsity cycle-superhighway, but we should also look at improving links between Cambridge and Ely, Royston, St Neots, Newmarket and other surrounding areas as well.”

Including bike tracks with rail development is common in many parts of the world, but is very much the idea du jour in the UK. London mayor Boris Johnson recently called for a bike route to be built alongside the proposed HS2 between London and Birmingham.

Cambridgeshire County Council bosses would like to complete the link to Cambridge, but the Railfuture campaign group has said land must be earmarked.

Railfuture has proposed four possible routes and favours one via the new town of Great Cambourne.

The rail journey between Cambridge and Bedford currently takes two hours and twenty minutes via London. The 30-mile journey can almost certainly be done more quickly by bicycle. Railfuture says a new two-track electrified line with trains running at 100mph could cut that to 35 minutes.

6 user comments

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Ha Ha you're right a train between Bedford and Cambs is 2h20 minimum and that *doesnt* include travel to and from stations, and is ~£50 for a single. What a joke.

posted by sfichele [136 posts]
18th March 2014 - 13:53


Why would you not do this? It would add peanuts to the overall cost. Make it wide enough and the two Universities could have a boat-race on bikes.

nowasps's picture

posted by nowasps [352 posts]
18th March 2014 - 17:03


It would add lots to the overall cost, I'm afraid. Most of the trackbed between Bicester and Bletchley is intact, and Oxford to Bicester is already in use (apart from the temporary closure at present for upgrade works). Putting a cycle track alongside a double-track electrified railway would require reconstructing all the cuttings and embankments, let alone the safety fencing that would no doubt be required.

The Cambridge to Bedford section is a more plausible idea, if the direct route for that is ever rebuilt. But then part of that (from Bedford to Sandy) already has a cycle path on the old trackbed anyway!

I tend to agree with Cambridge Cycling Campaign on this. Great if it can be done for minimal cost, but otherwise, let's spend the money on traffic-free routes where people really want to go. Feed-in routes from orbital towns/villages to cities will get the most bang per buck, not long-distance superhighways through fairly remote countryside.

Doctor Fegg's picture

posted by Doctor Fegg [142 posts]
18th March 2014 - 17:09


Huh. You can prove anything with facts.

nowasps's picture

posted by nowasps [352 posts]
18th March 2014 - 17:27


The closest thing to this that exists at the moment is Richard's Cam-Ox route, which is pretty direct at 84 miles:

But it's on road - so while it's fine for me, most people probably wouldn't consider it.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [602 posts]
18th March 2014 - 17:29


Pie in the sky.

People have been banging on about opening the line for at least 20 years so don't worry,taxpayers money is safe.

Anything that involves infrastructure work being done in Bedfordshire doesn't happen. Unless it involves building houses where the local dignitaries get back handers from developers......did I say that out loud? Devil

monkeytrousers's picture

posted by monkeytrousers [81 posts]
18th March 2014 - 18:02