Cambridge: Railways

[ Traffic | Motorists | Cyclists | Tourists | Residents | Index | Glossary ]


Early ideas included a line through to York, with a station on Jesus Green or the Latham Road area of Trumpington Road. The Great Northern wanted a station either near the Botanic Garden (New Museums Site), near Silver Street or in Emmanuel Road (Christ's Pieces). A Railway Act for Cambridge of 1844, 19 years after a line was proposed, established the first line (the Northern & Eastern Railway) and the station. The University ensured the Act gave University officers powers over University personnel's use of the station. It is partly a myth however that the University forced the station to be in what was then open countryside, "far" from the centre. Practical engineering factors were at least as important in determining the location and in any case the rapidly-growing town soon reached the station. Siting it there avoided demolishing homes.

After years of wrangling, the Great Northern Railway reached agreement with the Great Eastern in 1864 to share the latter's track around Cambridge and to build a separate platform.

By 1865 there were the following lines (as shown on the Ordnance Survey map electrotyped then):

Up to six railway companies operated in Cambridge station, which is why it has the longest platform in the country (twice the length of the longest one in Liverpool Street Station, for instance) and, until British Rail started redeveloping it, what was said to be the largest marshalling yard in East Anglia. Each company needed its own facilities.

Proposed Commuter railways

St Ives

Reopening the Cambridge-St.Ives line, combined with new stations on the outskirts of Cambridge and in necklace villages, would help reduce commuter traffic. However people would have to feel the services are reliable and flexible: not finishing too early in the evening, for instance, stranding them in Cambridge.

See also News of the Cambridge - St Ives Line, 15-Jan-1996 and Rail Possibilities, 23-Jun-1996 at ECOLN

As of March 1996 it seems that Government funding for the reopening is extremely unlikely, as there aren't reckoned to be enough commuters in the line's catchment area.

Various proposals have emerged, such as encouraging freight use on the line to make it viable; using the route as a bus and cycle way (Coun. Stuart Littlewood, CEN 3-May-1996) and making it a guided busway or tramway.

The Government thinks the guided bus scheme is more viable than the heavy rail option (normal passenger trains + freight).

Consultants working on the Arbury Camps and Chesterton Sidings developments have both proposed private finance to help bring the line back into use. Consultants Steer Davies Gleave, backed by Sainsbury's, have submitted a 19.5M bid to the Millenium Fund to resurrect the line, with full support from the City Council.

Bedford Line

(CEN 27-May-1997)
The Robert Sayle's development may pay for reopening part of the Bedford line. It could also be part of a South Wales - Oxford - Bedford - Sandy - Hitchin - Cambridge - Felixtowe link. A report was commissioned by the East-West Rail Consortium from consultants Steer Davies Gleave, which identified a single-track 60mph 98M scheme between Cambridge and Oxford and a 172 double-track 75mph scheme.

Colchester Line

(CEN 2-May-1997, 22-Aug)
The line through Gt. Shelford, Linton, Haverhill and Clare could be reopened but would need a lot of money - possibly 40M - as land has been sold, bridges destroyed and so on.

See also the Cambridge - Sudbury rail group.

Proposed Railway Stations

Long Road railway station

The nearby Addenbrookes Hospital is reckoned to generate 19,000 car journeys per day. Long Road and Hills Road Sixth Form Colleges are nearby.


The County Council sent a questionnaire to nearby homes and 95% of responses (which were 29% of those sent) were in favour of it. It's now giving this priority along with the St Ives line and as of April 1998 seems likely to be built - it's now up to the Secretary of State.
(CEN 12-Sep-1996, 19-Mar-1997, 31-Mar-1998)

See also Park-and-Ride.

Cherry Hinton railway station

The Great Eastern Railway Co. was petitioned for a station in 1891.

In 1996 the Labour/LibDem County Council tried to push this through the planning process against the wishes of the local people. There would be trains to Cambridge & Ipswich (but not London) every 2 hours. Estimated cost: 400,000 initially. The station was supposed to be for the benefit of the locals, following on from the 240,000 the County Council had spent on reducing through traffic. The report of the Council's officials conceded the station would have relatively low usage.

Protesters cited the proximity of a large infant's school, already dangerously near the level crossing, the lack of room to turn a car in the narrow road leading to the proposed site and the lack of a pavement. As parking was only to be provided for the disabled, railway users would have parked in the nearby residential streets. Commuters from far away would use the side streets and station to avoid City Centre parking charges, forcing the introduction of a residents-only parking scheme. Residents also feared vandalism would be a major problem, especially at night when the station would be unmanned. An alternative location with ample parking, in Yarrow Road away from the centre, was suggested by them. They sent a questionnaire to 3500 homes, shops & offices, producing 1,100 returns and a 70% "no" vote for the Council's plans.

Who would use a train for the short journey to Cambridge Station (perhaps then to catch a bus to shops) if/when there's a reasonable (by Cambridge standards!) bus service from Cherry Hinton? Realistically, a station would be of use at times when the bus service is poor (e.g. in the evenings?) and of use to commuters from further away, as a variant of Park-and-Ride. Coun. Dave Kelleway dismissed the residents' concerns. Anne Campbell MP asked for a public inquiry.

The City Council Planning Subcommittee gave the plan conditional approval as the station was likely to be unpopular with commuters and thus not affect residents. (The condition was over Council control of the frequency of trains.) The County Council Development Control Committee rejected it as impacting local amenities and preventing emergency access to Railway Street. Dave Kelleway said that was a "temporary setback" and his group would be submitting a new plan in 1997. About 100,000 in design fees and consultation was used by the County Council.
(CEN 24-Aug-1996, 5-Sep, 28-Sep, 22-Oct, 4-Dec, 23-Jan-1997)

Fulbourn railway station

Coun. John Durrant, 1996-97 Mayor and chairman of the Planning subcommittee, suggests a station at Fulbourn in addition to Cherry Hinton, to relieve traffic problems. It's just as welcome to the residents too.


Part of the proposed sidings/sewage farm development.

Cambridge : History