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Cambridge Approaches Action Group

 AC7XAK Freightliner freight train, pulling out of the North rail freight terminal, Port of Felixstowe, Suffolk, UK.

(Taken from the upcoming September 2020 Haslingfield and Harlton Church and Village Article)

Background

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/.

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FOI Request Sent to EWR

Resident searching for free information (Photo : Doug Thompson)

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.

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Formation of the Cambridge Approaches Group

The ISS Flies over The Bakehouse in Well-house Meadow

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.