Route Alignments

A Comparison of Option E and CBRR Part 2 : Residential & Environmental Impact

One of a Large New Batch of Posters in The Eversdens

In this post we continue the comparison between a southern Option E route and the route proposed by CBRR. In our earlier post we compared route length (as recapped in Figure 1) and capital cost, in this post we focus more on residential and environmental impact.

Figure 1 Diagram of Routes from Cambourne North (A) to Coldham’s Common (B)

As before, in considering a train transiting the Cambridge area from Cambourne to Chippenham junction near Newmarket on the newly rebranded East West Main Line, the route from point A to point B represents a fair comparison between the CBRR and Option E for through routes.

Road Crossings and Impact on Residential Areas

One of EWR Co.’s  Environmental Principles is as follows: “Respecting our Neighbours: effectively managing and controlling noise vibration and pollution to avoid affecting your health or quality of life.”

Rather than mitigate after building the railway, it has to be better to avoid the problem in the first place. Let’s have a look at how the CBRR route might help EWR Co. get closer to their objective in that way.

As before, we consider two routes from Cambourne North (A) to Coldham’s Common (B) as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Diagram of Southern Option E and CBRR Routes (N is Northstowe Station)

For comparison purposes, the EWR Option E scenario shown in Figure 2 has been taken as a route from the north of Cambourne, crossing the A428 to join the Option E area between Toft and Comberton and then to the north of Harlton, south of Haslingfield and Harston to then run parallel to the existing King’s Cross line into Cambridge. All existing bridges running parallel to the King’s Cross line and in Cambridge are assumed to require widening as it’s unlikely that there is sufficient capacity as these tracks are already extremely busy. The widening works may be carried out as part of the EWR Co. project or at a later stage by Network Rail: either way the taxpayer will fund the work.

*** Once again, we have to say that this example Southern Option E route shown in Figure 2 in red is not endorsed by CA ***

However, there are many publicly reported survey locations and evidence from local councillors that EWR Co. are looking at it. It is a combination of our previous alternatives 7 and 4.

RouteMotorway CrossingsA Road CrossingsB Road Crossings
Southern Option E1615
Option E – CBRR048
Table 1 Comparison of No. of Road Crossings

Counting the number of road crossings on new and existing track helps to compare construction costs of two otherwise similar routes. But given the nationally mandated policy of no new level crossings and EWR Co.’s policy of case by case decisions on re-instating access, it is also an indication of the level of disruption that will be caused by the new railway. If access is restored, we would have to live with the new earthworks and bridges: if it is not restored we would have to live with a divided community.

The results are shown in Table 1 and include existing parts of the track which may need to be widened, either at the time of construction or afterwards and either paid for as part of the EWR Co. project or by Network rail, but either way fundamentally by the taxpayer. Since the existing twin tracks south of Cambridge are currently much busier than the twin tracks north of Cambridge, work to improve tracks to the south is much more likely to be required.

Table 1 shows that the number of both A and B roads crossed is significantly lower for the CBRR route than for the southern Option E route. Because of the lack of track capacity to the south of Cambridge as mentioned above, road bridges over Long Road, Hills Road, Mill Road and Coldham’s Lane in Cambridge may well need to be modified. Given that most of these roads are already congested, such works would be exceptionally disruptive, far more so than bridges further out of Cambridge. Even if these four bridges did not require modifications, the number of Option E road crossings affected would still be greater than the CBRR route.

Ignoring those towns and villages that will have a station in the two scenarios (Cambourne, Northstowe, Cambridge North and Cambridge South), Table 2 shows the number of such settlements closely passed by the railway (within 500m). Again, the CBRR route wins out by a big margin. For the many thousands of people living in those villages, this not a small point as local politicians and EWR Co. should now be fully aware.

 Southern Option ECBRR
Villages within 500m of railwayCaldecote, Toft, Comberton, Little Eversden, Harlton, Haslingfield, Harston, Hauxton, Little Shelford, Great ShelfordOakington*, Milton, Caldecote**, Dry Drayton
Table 2 Number of Villages within 500m of EWR CS Cambourne North (A) to Cambridge

*Oakington would benefit from the CBRR Northstowe Station

** Caldecote is less affected by CBRR on the far side of the A428 than our southern Option E example.

Along similar lines, we looked at the built-up areas in Cambridge through which the railway runs. See table 3 below – again much less impact for CBRR.

 Option ECBRR
Cambridge Residential areas within 500mColdhams La.  area, Petersfield, Romsey, Mill Road, Hills Road area, Long Road, Queen Edith’s, TrumpingtonCambridge North Station area. Coldhams La. area
Length of Railway through built up areas in Cambridge (km)71.5
Table 3 Assessment of the Impact on Residential Cambridge

Lastly, we counted the number of properties within 200m of each railway option from A to B and the results are shown in Table 4 below. These figures are a comparative measure in noise and air pollution between the southern and northern options.

 Option ECBRR
No. of properties within
200m of railway (approx.)
Table 4 Number of Properties Impacted Cambourne North (A) to Coldham’s Common (B)

Once again, the CBRR route has far less residential impact both in Cambridge and in the villages.  Assuming 2.5 people per property around 6310 more people will be disturbed by a southern route than the CBRR one.

A northern approach also provides opportunities for freight to bypass Cambridge entirely in the future. 

Environmental Impact

As we remarked above, EWR Co. want to minimise the environmental impact of their new railway, but they seem to be thinking about mitigating the effect of the railway after construction rather than minimising the damage in the first place. Of course, this EWR Co. approach means they can decide where they want to put the railway unconstrained by environmental considerations and they can then make a show of patching it up afterwards.

EWR Co. have not performed an area wide Strategic Environmental Assessment, we assume for cost reasons. This means that they have to dance around the SEA Directive 2001/42/EC Articles 2 and 3, and it’s adoption in the UK and to be very careful about the terms plan and programme to which the SEA directive applies. Clearly, given that they maintain that they don’t need to perform an SEA, they can’t be doing a plan or programme. Someone needs to tell the EWR Co. HR department not to be recruiting for the Programme Sponsor roles as they don’t have a programme!

However, EWR Co. have made a statement about the relative environmental impact of CBRR vs Option E in §16 of their Option Report as follows:

Extract from EWR Co. Route Option Report January 2020

$§16.32-33 say that they have done an assessment of the CBRR route and found some issues – as usual very little detail or concrete evidence has been provided. §16.34 is the real problem though. Without a quantitative comparison of these CBRR issues with Option E how can they possibly conclude that more effort will be required to mitigate these effects than for Option E?

Wildlife Trust Assessment

Fortunately, the Wildlife Trust have performed a detailed comparison of Option E and the CBRR route and have kindly shared the details of their very thorough analysis with Cambridge Approaches. In this post we just present a summary of their findings between Cambourne and Cambridge.

Option E is a route area whose width varies from a few hundred metres to over 4km.  The CBRR route is closer to a route alignment, but allowance has been made for that by widening the corridor around the CBRR route to include a 1km buffer on either side. The Wildlife Trust have listed the sites affected along Option E and the CBRR route. If there is interest, we can seek permission from the Wildlife Trust to share their maps.

We have counted the number of sites between Cambourne and Cambridge and the results are set out in Table 4 as follows: 

SitesOption ECBRR + 2km Buffer
Wildlife Trust31
County Wildlife74
Scheduled Ancient Monument104
Table 4 Comparison of Environmental Sites Impacted CBRR vs Option E: Cambourne to Cambridge.

The CBRR route has considerably less impact between Cambourne and Cambridge than Option E. It seems that §16.34 of the option report may be wrong (to say the least).

This is our interpretation of the detailed study

This letter from the Wildlife Trust presents their interpretation as follows:

“all of the route options into Cambridge South are far worse than the route option into Cambridge North, which has been excluded from the consultation”.

The question is who knows more about the local environment – the Wildlife Trust or an internal study in EWR Co. that does not refer to evidence? 


Between Cambourne and Cambridge we have shown evidence that the CBRR proposal is hugely less damaging to residents both in Cambridge and in the approaches to Cambridge. The same is true of the impact on wildlife sites and ancient monuments as shown by the Wildlife Trust Study.

We have previously demonstrated that the route from the new Cambourne North station to Coldham’s common is shorter (and CBRR have discussed even shorter options with us that preserve the benefits). There are serious unanswered questions about the claimed cost benefits of the Option E route over CBRR to which we can now add the question of additional road crossings.

EWR Co. say they are back-checking the northern route to Cambridge in parallel with a detailed consultation of route alignments in the option E area. Here in CA we do not think this makes sense. If this post castes doubt in your mind that about the right approach to Cambridge and you would like to see a more open consultation including northern approaches, consider signing this petition.

Questions for EWR Co.

  1. Do you agree that avoiding environmental problems in the first place is better than mitigating them afterwards? If so, please can you add this to your environmental principles?
  2. Do you agree that minimising the number of road crossings and the residential areas affected is desirable?
  3. After looking at our analysis and the maps do you agree that the CBRR route is better than Option E in terms of road crossings?
  4. Do you agree that a Cambourne North station (outside the option E area) makes the Northern Approach more attractive e.g. since it becomes unnecessary to cross the A428 expressway east of Cambourne?
  5. Please can you explain your conclusion in §16.34 of the Option report? You have not published a quantitative comparison of the environmental impact of Option E vs CBRR, so the conclusion in §16.34 does not make logical sense. If you do have such a comparison, please can you share it with us? 
  6. Do you have evidence to contradict the assessment of the Wildlife Trust that the northern route into Cambridge from Cambourne is far better from a Wildlife and Ancient monument site perspective?
  7. We have now provided new evidence on all 5 of your key assessment criteria that favour the CBRR route over option E. Will you now commit to an open consultation on routes into Cambridge North and South?

William Harrold and David Revell.

14 replies on “A Comparison of Option E and CBRR Part 2 : Residential & Environmental Impact”

Another excellent piece of work. Thank you so much for everything that you are doing. It is very much appreciated.

Interesting report. Looking at the map, the south route would also have to contend with the hill between Barrington and Haslingfield. Are they planning a tunnel for this, or the removal of properties?

Thanks for explaining the rationale for your objections. For information, I’ve pasted the relevant excerpt from the EWR report here for the benefit of those trying to find it…

EWR Co’s further analysis has continued to
indicate that approaching Cambridge from the
south should remain the preferred option. The
reasons for preferring an approach from the
south are discussed in detail in Chapter 16
and include:
• Providing the opportunity to support growth
and development around the proposed
Cambridge South station
• Enabling EWR services to be extended
to Ipswich and east coast ports in future
without requiring a reversing move at
Cambridge station, which would incur a
considerable journey time penalty
• Upfront capital costs of an approach
from the south are estimated to be around
£0.6 billion lower than if EWR were to
approach Cambridge from the north
(at 2019 prices)
• There are a considerable number of
significant environmental features in the
area that a route into Cambridge from the
north would pass through. Approaching
Cambridge from the north could therefore
require a higher level of effort, complexity
and expense to mitigate potential
environmental impacts than route options
that approach Cambridge from the south

see page 20

The Addenbrooke’s, Royal Papworth, Rosie and Proposed Children’s hospitals and associated research and pharmaceutical industry development units and the residential housing do not appear to have been considered in the above analysis. They will all be close to the proposed EW passenger and freight link. Will future robotic equipment development or overnight surgery be affected by freight train movements?

The route now proposed through the top end of Highfield Caldecote will run on a viaduct for much of the way. What materials will be used to construct this viaduct and, if concrete, what environmental impact will that have apart from the other possible negative impacts?

A minor point – Your “Table 2 Number of Villages within 500m of EWR CS Cambourne North (A) to Cambridge” is incorrect and biased slightly in your favour.

For example you omit Histon, Landbeach and Clayhithe, all of which are closer to the CBBR route than for example Coldecote is to Option E.

John, thanks for writing in. We were using 500m as the cut-off distance and the villages you mention are not within 500m. Regarding Caldecote we are thinking of Highfields Caldecote and the preferred alignment goes very close to there.

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