The south coast express
THE prospect of getting on a train in Huntingdon or St Neots and alighting from the same carriage a couple of hours later in Brighton or elsewhere on the south coast is a step nearer reality – if 20 years late. All that now stands in the way of an idea fi
THE prospect of getting on a train in Huntingdon or St Neots and alighting from the same carriage a couple of hours later in Brighton or elsewhere on the south coast is a step nearer reality - if 20 years late.
All that now stands in the way of an idea first proposed by British Rail in the early 1990s is £3.5billion of Network Rail's money, funded by the British taxpayer.
The Government gave the go-ahead for the new route last week following a public inquiry last year. Whitehall cash to build it is expected to follow the decision.
However, at the moment, there are no plans to add new trains to the route.
Larry Hayman, spokesman for First Capital Connect, operator of trains from Huntingdon and St Neots, said the projected opening date of the new route was too close to the end of the company's franchise (in 2015) for its present routes for any decisions to be taken about buying new trains.
Ironically, the key to this 21st century development is two Victorian railway tunnels in north London that were rescued from mothballs - or, realistically near-dereliction - in the 1980s when the first cross-London Thameslink route was opened up.
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But what has been known as the Thameslink 2000 scheme - because it was originally planned by nationalised BR for operation from the year 2000 - has been delayed by two things on top of the inability of successive Governments to make up their minds.
It had originally been planned as part of the redevelopment of King's Cross station as the Eurostar interchange for Paris, Brussels and beyond.
However, the first delay, in the mid-1990s, occurred when the decision was taken to use the adjacent St Pancras station as the international terminus - King's Cross would have enabled trains to continue northwards to Peterborough and other stations to Manchester, Edinburgh - and elsewhere.
The second delay was caused by conservationists' concern for the effect of the scheme on the historic Borough Market, near London Bridge Station.
The project is essentially part of a much larger scheme which will allow an increase in the number of train services which can travel across London and open out the route to more stations both north and south of the capital.