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.