Bedfordto Bletchley Railway timetable (pdf)
The Railway Age
Bedford To Bletchley Rail Users' Association
The railway station in Lidlington is one of the oldest in the county of Bedfordshire. The railway was the brain-child of Bedfordshire businessmen who, back in 1844, realised they were losing out on the new transport revolution which was providing massive reductions in transport costs and time - the railway age had been born. Within two years of the Bill, to build the railway, passing through Parliament, the Bedford to Bletchley line was ready for business. The first train ran, with great ceremony, on 17th November 1846 from the small terminus station at Bedford, passing through Lidlington en route to the Bletchley junction with the London and Birmingham railway.
At once the local line was swallowed up by the emergent London and North Western Railway which was to operate the line until the railway grouping of 1923 when the LMS (London Midland and Scottish Railway) took control.
Nationalisation in 1948 brought the line into the public network under the London Midland Region and, in 1986 when the regional division were swept away, the line formed a northern outpost of Network South-East. Even that is now history as the railways rapidly slide into private ownership. Present responsibility for the Bedford to Bletchley service rests with North London Railways, a subsidiary company, prior to full privatisation of the British Railways Board. Expansion of the line came in two stages.
In 1851 the line was extended west from Bletchley to Oxford and later, in 1862, east from Bedford to Cambridge. Traffic was buoyant for many years, never more so than during the two world wars of the present century. It was after the Second World War that the rail route started to suffer real losses of traffic. Freight was gradually lost to the emergent road haulage business, a trend greatly accelerated with the advent of the Motorway network. Decline in the brick industry robbed the line of much freight revenue and passenger traffic with workers no longer travelling to and from the brickwork's by train. The growth in personal car ownership further eroded the passenger use of the line and the result can, perhaps, be seen all to clearly in the hopeless road congestion, particularly in Bedford. Cut backs were probably inevitable, but closure proposals were on three occasions strenuously fought by local rail users.
At the end of 1967 the lines from Bedford to Cambridge, and from Bletchley to Oxford, were closed leaving the original 16.5 miles between Bedford and Bletchley to soldier on alone. Further closure threats have followed but so to have some improvements to the service. In 1980 the voluntary Bedford to Bletchley Rail User's Association was formed in order to promote the line and help reduce the risk of closure. An early target was to get the service extended from the old, derelict, St. Johns station in Bedford to the main, Bedford Midland station. This was achieved in May 1984 and passenger figures immediately rose by over 50%. Passengers from Bletchley, Woburn Sands, Lidlington, etc, could now cross platforms at Bedford and join the frequent electric services to Luton, London, Gatwick, and Brighton. At the other end of the line three trains an hour connect Bletchley with the "new" Central Milton Keynes station.
Over many years school children have formed the backbone of passenger users on the line through Lidlington, and this is still the case. There is, however, a reliable service throughout the day, Mondays to Saturdays, offering opportunities for all sections of the community to use the rail line in order to get to work, to the shops, to visit friends, or for leisure activities, etc. Traffic congestion, especially in Bedford, has reached intolerable proportions at many times of the day but residents in Lidlington can still rely on the rail service to deliver them safely to the town within 20 minutes of leaving the village.
We very much wish to thank Ray Wardleworth and Roger Gurney, originally from Lidlington, for allowing Lidlington Online to reproduce their original photographs on the following pages.