BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OXFORD -
CAMBRIDGE RAILWAY (Bedford - Cambridge section)
The Bedford & Cambridge Railway Bill was put before parliament
in 1860 and despite objections from the Eastern Counties Railway
the Bill received the Royal Assent on 6th August. As part of the
Act, the new Bedford & Cambridgeshire Railway bought out the
Sandy & Potton Railway which had opened in 1857 from Sandy
to a terminus on Biggleswade Road, Potton.
Work on the line began in April 1861 with the short lived Sandy
& Potton Railway closing in December 1861. Much of the route
was re-laid and Potton Station was resited close by.
The first train containing directors and shareholders of the
company departed from Bedford at 9.04 on 4th July 1862, arriving
at Cambridge at 1.30 pm. Three days later the line was officially
opened for goods traffic and to passengers on 1st August, finally
linking the two university cities of Oxford and Cambridge.
The Bletchley to Bedford line had opened in 1846 and the opening
of the Bedford to Cambridge line provided an important cross country
link 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
Intermediate stations were built at Blunham, Potton, Gamlingay,
Old North Road & Lords Bridge and a bay was provided at the
recently rebuilt Cambridge Station to accommodate the Oxford and
Bedford trains. At Sandy the trains from Bedford crossed over
the Great Northern line on a lattice bridge running down into
the new station which was located alongside the Great Northern
station. A new station at Willington was added in 1906 and in
1938 a new halt was opened at Girtford between Blunham & Sandy;
this was short lived however closing two years later.
From the offset the train service was run by the London &
North Western Railway absorbing the Bedford & Cambridge Railway
in July 1865
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 line closed after the last day of service on 30th December
1967 although the section between Bletchley and Bedford remained
Track lifting of the Bedford - Cambridge Line began on 13th August
1968. Track was left in place between Potton and Gamlingay pending
negotiations for preservation by the Sandy & Potton Steam
Railway Society. Unfortunately the Society was unable to raise
sufficient funds and the 5.25 miles of track was eventually lifted.
One section of the bed between Lords Bridge Station and the junction
with the GER has become the site of a very long radio telescope
belonging to the Mullard
Radio Astronomy Observatory (Part of Cambridge University).
The long level straight stretch of line was ideal for this telescope
which is rail mounted, the track has however been re-laid and
the gauge is now about 12 feet!
- Oxford to Cambridge Railway (Volume 2 Bletchley - Cambridge)
by Bill Simpson - Oxford Publishing Company 1981 ISBN 86093
- Forgotten Railways - East Anglia by R S. Joby - David &
ISBN 0 7153 7312 9
To see the other
stations on the Oxford - Cambridge line click on the station name:
Oxford Rewley Road, Port
Meadow Halt, Wolvercote
Road Halt, Islip,
London Road, Launton,
Gibbon & Poundon, Claydon,
St. Johns, Blunham,
Road & Lords
Bridge - see also The Bedford
Railway (stations still open)