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Clegg calls for Varsity line reopening to link five garden cities

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for the reopening of the old railway between Oxford and Cambridge, which would help connect five new garden cities.

The Liberal Democrat leader said that rebuilding the former Varsity Line would help support construction of upto 50,000 new homes along its route.

The Varsity Line would be part of the East-West Rail scheme, which is split into three sections: a western section from Oxford and Didcot to Bedford; a central section from Bedford to Cambridge; and an eastern section from Cambridge to Norwich, Felixstowe and Ipswich. The scheme involves upgrading existing track or reinstating some disused lines.

Varsity Line

The route of the Varsity Line, if reopened.

“Garden cities are a vital cornerstone of our plan to boost house building to 300,000 homes a year – enough to meet demand and keep prices in reach – while still protecting our precious green space and preventing urban sprawl,” Clegg said.

“Our plan is to build a series of high quality new towns and cities where people want to live, with green space, sustainable transport and spacious homes.

“We will encourage the towns along the route to come forward with plans for this scale of development with clear benefits for existing residents, such as service improvement like “express stations” with higher frequency rail services.”

Work on the first section of the East West Rail scheme is already under way, with the construction and doubling of track for more than 18km of railway to increase line speeds to 100mph along with a variety of other works. These include the construction of new overbridges, underbridges and footbridges, closure of 37 level crossings, construction of a new station at Oxford Parkway and work to upgrade Bicester Town and Islip stations along with a new signalling system.

Design work to re-establish the passenger and freight rail link between Bedford, Milton Keynes and Aylesbury got underway last month.

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