Fast trains to London

Once upon a time, many years ago (we’ll keep the story short!) there used to be a link between Camberley’s ‘local’ railway track and the fast Main Line that passes through Farnborough.  This link was in Frimley Green, and was called the Sturt Chord.  But the link fell into disuse, and the track was removed – though the embankment on which it ran has been preserved ever since.

Now, just about everyone involved in Camberley’s train service – that’s the train operators, Network  Rail, the borough and county councils AND the passengers – accepts that the service is poor.  It’s infrequent, usually involves changing trains, and it’s slow.  So re-opening the Sturt Chord has been on the wish list for quite a while.  Indeed, the Surrey Rail Strategy of 2013 recommended exploring the idea as a longer-term option.

Arup front coverIt’s because the Main Line is currently overloaded, that reinstating the link can only be a longer-term option.  But, looking ahead, things might change, not least because of Crossrail 2.  So, in the second half of last year, the county council commissioned Arup – the highly-regarded consulting engineers – to look at the  “option to introduce a Sturt Road Chord and grade-separated link [in layman’s terms, that’s a ‘flyover’] to allow direct services on the South West Main Line (SWML), subject to released capacity being provided by other SWML schemes (e.g. Crossrail 2) and subject to a business case assessment.”

The primary objectives of the Arup study are:

“1) To assess the options for improving rail service frequency and journey times from Camberley to London via the SWML.

“2) To assess the costs of each of these options, and thus estimate the benefits that would need to be achieved in order to produce a positive business case.  The costs that will need to be established for each option will consider infrastructure and other capital costs.”

Needless to say, the Arup report’s findings will be of considerable local interest. Publication of the report seems to have slipped somewhat, but we gather that this is in a good cause.  We’ve recently been told that “The councils [that’s the borough and county councils] are working together to sign off the report with Arup, which is almost complete. Members will then receive a presentation of the report along with a joint local authority (Surrey and Surrey Heath) rail action plan. Following the presentations, the report and joint rail action plan will be made publicly available.”

A “joint rail action plan”.  Let’s hope that it contains good news, and that it promises improvements to our train service before TOO long.

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6 thoughts on “Fast trains to London

  1. The councils ought to dig out the 1995 report entitled “Rail Line Improvements in Surrey (South west Trains Operating Area)” produced for Surrey CC by Colin Buchanan and Partners which did most of what is now proposed. I doubt that much has changed, the passenger numbers have increased but not much else. If SHBC and SCC have lost their copies of the report I can provide one at a reasonable cost..
    The cost of the flyover will prevent any progress. Back in 1995 I suggested that a “one way” circular route be considered as this would eliminate the need for a flyover

    • Steve, I’m impressed – genuinely. I’d not heard of the suggestion of a circular route before. But I’m sure you’re right that the flyover at Woking would be too costly if its only justification were the Sturt Chord. (Though I’ve a suspicion that a flyover is sort-of planned there anyway, to debottle other services).
      I suspect it’s illegal for me to ask you what you’d charge the councils to supply a copy of the report. As I’ve also got a copy, you and I might indulge in a little price-fixing!

  2. Instead of creating a new flyover, couldn’t the line simply link in to the existing Alton line flyover near Ash Vale station with the addition of a new curve, or simply go into Ash Vale and change direction.

    In the Short term a better connection at Ash Vale would greatly help, currently its usually a 20 minute wait. Currently there are a couple of trains a day with an impractical 1 minute connection at Ash Vale couldn’t this be increased.

    • I’m not a expert on this matter, Ian. But the ideas in your first paragraph wouldn’t overcome the overcrowding of the main line, of course. But, in the shorter term, you’re right. There are personal improvements that could be made at Ash Vale – and Ascot. I’ve never seen a categoric reason why these wouldn’t be practical.

  3. How about a BIG change? A joint venture by the rail service providers involved to join the Blackwater and Camberley lines and provide a new service for both Camberley and Blackwater. The new station can be relocated to between Camberley and Blackwater maybe near the RMA on the London Road? The old stations can be redeveloped into something new. The new route will take advantage of current routes and lines to Guildford/Reading and onward journeys to London/Oxford and be run by rail both service providers.

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