About us

Cambridge Approaches is a grassroots campaign against the proposals to build East West Rail (EWR) to Cambridge. We have studied the EWR proposals in detail together with the associated plans for the OxCam Arc and its successors.

Our Objectives[1]

  1. Stop the EWR rail link between Bedford and Cambridge (CS3) being built.
  2. As a fall back to a. stop the Southern Approach to Cambridge (SATC)
  3. As a fall back to b. maximise the mitigations to the SATC.

The Case against EWR CS3

The Department for Transport (DfT) accounting officer’s report from 2021, accepts that the benefit to cost ratio of EWR CS3 is poor and it had dropped further since then to 0.3 in May 2023. 

EWR is a solution looking for a problem. It has been variously a long distance rail link into East Anglia; a freight route from Felixstowe docks; a fast train to connect Oxford and Cambridge supporting the building of 1 million new houses in the Oxford Cambridge Arc and, in the 2023 EWR Route Update announcement, it re-appeared as a commuter solution for Cambridge. Despite the advanced state of the engineering plans, in April 2024 the DfT confirmed that they had still not completed even the strategic outline business case. We are now led to believe that the proposed Cambridge 2040 project to quadruple the population of Cambridge will have no effect on EWR or even its best route. The case for taking EWR to Cambridge does not seem to be linked to the real world.

The May 2023 EWRCo. Economic and Technical Report assumed that houses would be built for 213,300 people at stations west of Cambridge: Cambourne, Tempsford etc. However, based on EWRCo. analysis of travel patterns in the 2011 census; less than 1% of these new people would regularly commute to Cambridge on EWR. What will the rest of them do? Many would obviously commute to Cambridge by car. This would defeat the “strong” strategic goal of the railway to unlock growth in Cambridge by alleviating congestion on the roads. 

It also remains a mystery as to who would grant planning permission for all these houses. It isn’t EWRCo./DfT, it isn’t DLUHC. The local planning authorities have their own plans which, certainly in the Cambridge area, do not include the housing assumptions of EWRCo.

EWRCo.’s now departed CEO Beth West stated that 20,000 jobs would be created at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC) as it presumably expands into the Cambridge green belt. This forecast apparently came from the developer-written Vision 2050 document which gives no justification for such a claim. Note that nearly all of the existing work force at the CBC are at the hospitals not the private sector biotech companies: AstraZeneca and Abcam, neither of whom have announced expansion plans dependent on EWR.

If planning permission were granted to build houses for 213,300 people on greenfield sites, we estimate the profits that would accrue to landowners and the shareholders of property developers would be of the same order as the cost to the public of building the railway. It is no accident that the property industry is lobbying hard for EWR. Large donations are also being made to political parties from interested parties.

The Case Against the Southern Approach to Cambridge

The EWRCo. Affordable Connections Project recommended a northern approach to Cambridge as cheaper, less environmentally damaging, easier to construct and better for freight at all levels. It could connect to all Cambridge stations, but EWRCo. wanted to connect to Cambridge South station and the CBC first. Hence their flawed choice.


Re-instating or adding services to existing railway lines is a very different proposition than building a new line. Land use around existing railways lines in the UK has had 150 years to adapt and level crossings are commonplace.

New routes have to go under or more likely over existing roads, railways and rivers. There are so many such obstacles on the approach to Cambridge that the proposals have the railway running on 10 metre high embankments or viaducts much of the way – the Great Wall of South Cambridgeshire. Quiet residential areas would be trashed, farms cut to pieces and wildlife damaged. We await EWRCo.’s specific proposals but given the absence of business case, the costs of mitigation would be an issue.

Cambridge Approaches

Cambridge Approaches started as an informal campaign in the summer of 2020 when residents started to receive survey requests. Cambridge Approaches Limited (company number 13165368) was formed in January 2021 for legal reasons as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. 

[1] Our objectives follow the mitigation hierarchy as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 32.

Support us

See how you can help make a difference.