Cambridge MP Julian Huppert calls for 'varsity' bike link to Oxford
Plans to reopen Oxford-Bedford-Cambridge line already underway

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.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.


sfichele [140 posts] 1 year ago

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.

nowasps [367 posts] 1 year ago

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.

Doctor Fegg [143 posts] 1 year ago

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.

nowasps [367 posts] 1 year ago

Huh. You can prove anything with facts.

PJ McNally [588 posts] 1 year ago

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.

monkeytrousers [83 posts] 1 year ago

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?  19