[Source: Nick Catford]


A group of local businessmen first promoted a line to Bedford in 1844. The proposal was supported by engineer George Stephenson. A public meeting was held on 23rd April 1844 where there was some discussion about where the line should form a junction with the London & Birmingham. Stephenson was keen that the junction should be at Bletchley and although there was spirited opposition his proposal was eventually accepted.
A prospectus for the Bedford & London & Birmingham Railway was drawn up on 28th May 1844, with the engineers being named as George and Robert Stephenson. When complete the line was to be worked by the London & Birmingham Railway. Work on the line started on 13th December 1945 and was completed in September 1846

During the construction of the Bedford line, the London & Birmingham Railway amalgamated with the Grand Junction Railway to form the London & North Western Railway who took over the running of the line.

Intermediate stations from Bletchley were Fenny Stratford, Ridgmont, Lillington and Manston (later renamed Millbrook). The line opened on 18th November 1846; the line from Oxford - Bletchley opened on 20th May 1851. The final link from Bedford to Cambridge opened on 7th July 1862 provided an important cross country line between Oxford and Cambridge forming one of the few east-west routes, with the capability of reaching the east coast ports. Most services however ran from Oxford to Bletchley and from Bletchley to Cambridge.

The Second World War intensified traffic on the line like never before. With the return of peace and the nationalisation of the run down railway network the newly formed British Railways board was looking to close unprofitable lines.

In 1955 The Railway Modernisation Plan proposed improvements in cross country facilities between Oxford and Cambridge with the aim of maintaining a link between the major main line railways outside the congested Greater London area thereby allowing freight traffic to be transferred between three railway regions and easing the burden on London marshaling yards. Within a few years the policy changed and the line was not upgraded with the Bletchley flyover remaining as a monument to the fruitless proposal.

An attempt was made to close the Oxford - Bletchley - Cambridge line in 1959 but local pressure succeeded in winning a reprieve. There was some relief when Dr. Beeching did not include the cross country Oxford to Cambridge line in his closure proposals in 1963 but just one year later, the British Railways Board published closure plans for the whole route. The introduction of new diesel trains in the 1960's allowed British Railways to run much faster trains and the need for a cross country service declined as passengers found it quicker to travel from Oxford to Cambridge via London. The lines between Oxford and Bletchley and Bedford and Cambridge closed after the last day of service on 30th December 1967 although the section between Bletchley and Bedford remained open although downgraded.

All the stations lost their goods and parcels facilities and every station became an unstaffed halt from 15th July 1968. It wasn't long before closure was once again proposed and it was announced that the remaining section of the Oxford - Cambridge route would close in October 1972. There were numerous objections to the closure which was postponed until a suitable replacement bus service could be introduced. Once this was in place closure was announced for 31st December 1972.

The Bedford Rail Users' Association was formed to fight the closure and the opposition was so strong that British Rail was forced to postpone once again pending an appeal by local groups. At this time government think on rail closures was changing with the government offering a grant towards maintaining the service. With the development of the new town of Milton Keynes the line began attracting new customers.

In 1973 a 20 year contract between the Greater London Council and the London Brick Company assured the lines future. The contract was worth £10m to British Rail who began operating block trains between new sidings at Stewartby and a new handling depot at Hendon.

The following pictures were all taken in December 1967, a week before closure of the Oxford - Bletchley and Bedford - Cambridge lines. There are no photographs of Bow Brickhill Halt and Aspley Guise.

To see stations on the Bedford Railway between Bletchley and Bedford (The Marston Vale Line) click on the station name:
Fenny Stratford, Bow Brickhill, Woburn Sands, Aspley Guise, Husborne Crawley (Closed), Ridgmont, Lidlington, Millbrook, Stewartby, Wooton Broadmead (Closed), Kempston Hardwick & Kempston & Elstow

To see the other stations on the Oxford - Cambridge line click on the station name: Oxford Rewley Road, Port Meadow Halt, Wolvercote Halt, Oxford Road Halt, Islip, Oddington Halt, Charlton Halt, Wendlebury Halt, Bicester London Road, Launton, Marsh Gibbon & Poundon, Claydon, Verney Junction, Winslow, Swanbourne, Bedford St. Johns, Willington, Blunham, Girtford Halt, Sandy, Potton, Gamlingay, Old North Road & Lords Bridge




[Source: Nick Catford]

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