William Harrold from Cambridge Approaches will be interviewed by Dotty McLeod on her BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Breakfast Show on Tuesday 25th August at around 7.20am. Tune in to hear the interview!
Thanks to the many people that have responded to the receipt of our flyer. This has not yet been distributed to all the affected villages, but we are working on it. Thanks also to the volunteers who have delivered so many of them already. Haslingfield and Harlton have been done, Barton and Great Shelford are in progress.
We received many responses on email@example.com expressing support for what we are doing. We have had expressions of surprise, anger, frustration, loss of sleep and sadness about the situation. Also there have been possible solutions for the best route.
We received several comments on the design of the flyer, most commonly – can we have a bigger version of the map? This map shows our view of possible route options. We are working on that and aim to put something on this site soon.
We met with Anthony Browne our local MP. He has been assured by East West Rail that they are working on a solution that will have minimal impact on residents (a figure of 20 houses was mentioned) and that it will run through the northern part of the Option E search area. There are no zero impact options. He also said that they intend to run Electric rather than Diesel trains due a change of policy from the new secretary of state for transport Grant Shapps. Let’s see if these statements are confirmed in writing by EWR. Anthony Browne said that a consultation from EWR with a detailed alignment proposal is expected early in 2021.
EWR have setup a meeting with Parish Councillors on the 25th August and we will attend that. Some additional questions have been tabled to them for that meeting. We understand that they also have a meeting with County Councillors on the 24th..
(Taken from the upcoming September 2020 Haslingfield and Harlton Church and Village Article)
After the public consultation last year, East West Rail (EWR) decided in January this year to focus their attention on route ‘option E’ for the section of their new railway between Bedford and Cambridge. It is classed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and will form the busy central-section of the final East West Railway between East Anglia’s ports and the Midlands, serving fast growing towns along its route. Why the multi-modal corridor to the north proposed by CamBedRailRoad was not selected remains a mystery. ‘Option E’ is not a rail alignment but a corridor, several miles wide in places, through which the line will run. It includes Haslingfield and the outskirts of Harlton but also extends to Comberton and Barton in the north and Newton and The Shelfords in the east. EWR are currently carrying out further design and survey work to determine different line options which are planned to be used in a public consultation in 2021 before their selection of a preferred alignment. Construction is expected to start in 2025.
What to expect
What little detail we know about the alignment is given in the consultation response. EWR are funded by the tax-payer and we have submitted a Freedom of Information request to them to find out more. We know the line will connect with the Liverpool Street line near Great Shelford and that EWR have stated that they will avoid residential areas and reduce negative environmental impacts. We believe the line will avoid the radio telescopes (MRAO), forcing possible alignments towards the boundaries of the option E area. EWR have discussed exclusion distances with the MRAO but so far have not made this information public.
If the MRAO requirements are respected and the line goes to the north, it will pass close to Barton and then follow the M11 before crossing the A1301 in Great Shelford. Other options to the south would have much more of an impact on Harlton and Haslingfield in terms of noise, air quality and visual intrusion. It is very likely, given our knowledge of the location of surveys that EWR have requested and undertaken, that they are seriously considering an options skimming close to Haslingfield Road, Harlton, the top of Knapp Rise, School Lane and The Elms before passing just south of Harston. Some minor roads and footpaths may be closed.
EWR’s diesel trains will be a mixture of passenger and freight with night-time operations. This will inevitably create more noise and air pollution, the extent of which would depend on the option chosen.
What we can do
We successfully stopped the Cemex waste incinerator 15 years ago, but this is potentially the biggest disruption to Haslingfield and Harlton for a generation and it is amazing to us how little local people are aware of it. Irreversible decisions will be taken soon.
We feel that the residents of the area should have an input into this decision-making process and now have agreement of the affected parishes to form an action group. The intention is also to work with EWR and other stakeholders in discussing alignment options and mitigating the impacts. We will generate our own options and, together, select one that is least damaging to the area. We will then lobby EWR to adopt this option in the hope of getting a better outcome for all. If we do not express our wishes at an early stage, the options may be restricted and residents will be presented with a fait accompli.
If you are interested in helping or finding out more, please subscribe free on our website http://cambridgeapproaches.org/.
A resident in the Option E search area who I will call Jane, recently had her garden surveyed by people from East West Rail. We understand from talking to Ardent, that the surveys were performed by the Engineering company Arup on behalf of EWR. Jane is an ecologist by profession and so is well placed to comment for us at Cambridge Approaches. She sets out her experience below.
“Our garden was surveyed in the summer to inform the EWR route alignment. The pair of surveyors recorded the surrounds of our property. I asked them what they’d discovered from the desk studies that should have been undertaken prior to detailed ecological surveys. They did not know of any desk studies, or had not been made aware of the findings of any such studies. They did not know when, or if, they would be surveying neighbouring gardens or fields.
Following this, I emailed EWR to ask for clarification on the ecology surveys.
Specifically, I asked:
Q: Have ecological desk studies been undertaken? If not, why not?
Q. How can a comprehensive understanding of the ecology of an area be gained from discrete, isolated (in time and spatially) surveys? For example, we know that badgers forage in our garden. This may not be immediately apparent from one brief survey (though we did tell the surveyors). How will you identify the badger setts in the surrounding area if you a) don’t carry out desk studies to find out what local records exist, and b) if you don’t survey the fields where the setts are found?
Q. Could you please outline the broad areas over which ecological surveys are taking place? i.e. could you confirm that ecological surveys are being carried out across the whole swathe of the outlined area, not just the narrow band to the south of the outlined area.
Q. What stage of the environmental assessment process is the project at? Scoping? Screening?
I sent my queries by email on 29 June and 10 July, and again on 12 August. I have not, to date, received answers.
Given that the planned public consultation on this project did not take place, the lack of communication from the EWR project is extremely disappointing.
In EWR’s own words, they will “work hard to earn the trust of anyone who might be impacted by the railway by being transparent and clear at every stage” (quote from “Connecting Communities: The Preferred Route Option between Bedford and Cambridge”. This has yet to be demonstrated.”
It seems that from Jane’s experience that there are questions to be answered about the value of the ecological surveys being performed by East West Rail. These surveys are all paid for with hard-earned tax-payers money. Will they actually provide accurate information to guide the routing and necessary mitigations for the railway. Jane clearly has her doubts. It is also disappointing that EWR have not responded to her.
The East West Rail Company is publicly funded and as such part of its accountability to the tax payer is to respond to freedom of information requests. We sent an FOI on the 6th August covering the following areas:
1. Locations of all requested and executed surveys (structural, geotechnical, environmental, ecological, geological and otherwise in your leaflet entitled “What kind of surveys are happening at the moment?”) in and around the Option E area of the Central Section of the proposed Railway. Please redact any personal information like the names of the residents. Also the results so far of the surveys.
2. Documentation of the underlying route trajectory options being evaluated and which are behind the choice of environmental survey sites. We are told that there are no route trajectory options yet. If this is the case, please send the justification for a more blanket approach to these surveys and explain why the surveys we are aware of are all in a straight line from Little Eversden, Harlton, south of Haslingfield and Harston – see https://haslingfieldvillage.co.uk/2020/news/map-of-east-west-rail-environmental-survey-locations/
3. A copy of any communications between East West Rail and the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory or related organizations such as the Cavendish Astrophysics Group or the Institute of Astronomy or any organisation you are involved with discussion around planning constraints in relation to EWR and the Mullard Radio Observatory
4. Communication between EWR Rail and landowners in the option E area.
5. Any documentation or communications held about the Eversden and Wimpole Woods is a SAC (European designation – Special Area of Conservation) for Barbastelles bats.
6. Any documentation or communications on environmental, archeological or historical constraints in the Option E area.
7. A log of previous FOI requests and their contents (We already aware of 5 FOI requests from CamBedRailRoad)
We expect to get a response in 20 days so 26th August. If we get anything interesting we will publish it on this web site.
After the decision by East West Rail (EWR) to focus their attention on option E for the central section of their new railway, it became clear that awareness of the issue was very low in the affected area. The planned consultation meetings from EWR never happened and are still not scheduled. Some residents became aware of the issue when they were approached by EWR’s agent Ardent and asked for access to their property, so that surveys could be performed.
This group was formed after a meeting on 15th July 2020 between representatives of parish councils in the affected area from Toft to the Shelfords and the intention is to generate our own options for the possible routes of the railway and to discuss these with the community and the powers that be. The hope if to get a more open dialogue and a better outcome for all concerned.