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The Beginnings of CAST.IRON

Inspired by the success on 4th July 2003 of the first trains for 49 years on the Wensleydale Railway (an independent organisation formed to restore rail services to the Northallerton to Garsdale route), Cambridge resident and accountant Tim Phillips realised there was a 'third way' of operating a railway line. Thanks to the mechanism of privatisation, it was now possible to operate passenger trains on disused or unused Railtrack/Network Rail lines without being one of the franchised Train Operating Companies.

By 17th July, Mr Phillips had put together a basic plan for the staged reintroduction of rail services on the St Ives line based on the Wensleydale model: that is, a community railway paid for and operated by the residents and businesses along the line. The principal limitations at each end of the route were:

South East:
  • Crossing the Milton Road, a main arterial road leading north out of Cambridge.
  • Joining the main line and obtaining paths into Cambridge Station.
North West:
  • Absence of track beyond Fen Drayton

Original Plan

Stage A was therefore the reopening from Cambridge Science Park (immediately beyond the Milton Road crossing) to Swavesey (immediately east of the last crossing before Fen Drayton).

Subject to survey, the formation from Fen Drayton to the outskirts of St Ives (where the former route is now severed by a road by-pass) remains available for rail use.

Stage B was reinstatement of the section Fen Drayton to the outskirts of St Ives and the doubling of the line to increase capacity.

Stage B also involved taking the necessary steps to cross Milton Road to allow through trains from St. Ives into Cambridge Station.

Stage C was the electrification of the whole line and reconnection to the East Coast Main Line at Huntingdon, providing a much-needed strategic link for local, regional, national and possibly international services, both passenger and freight.

It was always recognised that Stage C would require substantial funding beyond the means of the local population, commensurate with the wider benefits.

The current plan is available online.

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Site last modified November 2017