The new East-West Rail Link between Oxford and Ipswich is being planned to pass through Cambridge.
Whilst the extra trains, about 6 per hour, will offer better choice for passengers, the 20 or so freight trains are less welcome.
These freight trains originate at the port of Felixstowe which is expanding steadily. They currently follow two routes, either via Ely and Peterborough to the Midlands and north or via Chelmsford and north London to the West and South of England. Both routes are congested and the coming East-West rail link will offer a convenient third option.
The proposed route approaches Cambridge from the south and leaves via the single track line towards Newmarket via the sharp curve at Coldham’s common junction.
It is expected that the track will be dualled as far as Fulbourn, through Cherry Hinton so that freight trains can wait for a suitable gap to pass through the congested Cambridge Central station.
The East West Rail link is being built to a standard suitable for freight trains, so we can expect it to be fully used. Indeed all official forecasts show this to be the case.
There has been little sign that the designers and builders of the new railway have considered the alternative route to the north of Cambridge.
This northern approach could offer less disruption from these half-mile long, diesel hauled trains. Even more appropriate would be a full bypass line for freight trains avoiding the need for any to pass through the city.
Steve Edmondson, Cambridge Approaches Action Group, Cantelupe Road, Haslingfield.
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.
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.
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 7and 4.
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 E
Villages within 500m of railway
Caldecote, Toft, Comberton, Little Eversden, Harlton, Haslingfield, Harston, Hauxton, Little Shelford, Great Shelford
Oakington*, 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.
Length of Railway through built up areas in Cambridge (km)
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.
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.
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:
$§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:
CBRR + 2km Buffer
Scheduled Ancient Monument
Table 4 Comparison of Environmental Sites Impacted CBRR vs Southern 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 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.
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?
Do you agree that minimising the number of road crossings and the residential areas affected is desirable?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
Sebastian Kindersley of CBRR makes compelling arguments for a northern approach to Cambridge for the Central Section of the East West Railway.
Sadly, EWR Co. are not currently planning any consultation on approaches to Cambridge north and south. They never have.
However, Anthony Browne reported on Friday’s Shelford meeting that EWR Co. are planning a one year back-check of a northern approach, presumably in parallel with a further consultation about Option E detailed route alignments.
In response to questioning on Friday Mr Browne agreed that this position from EWR Co. does not make sense. He’s right, it’s crazy.
This is an audio recording of the exchange between Anthony Browne, Sebastian Kindersley and a resident of Gt Shelford on the subject of the back-check of the northern approach. We understand that Gt Shelford Parish Council will upload the full recording of the meeting in due course.
Please listen to the presentation and the audio recording and if you also want an open consultation on the right approach to Cambridge do sign the CBRR petition (and get your friends and family to do so as well) – all UK taxpayers will be funding this project after all and we need a say.
In this post we discuss just two of the parameters for a comparison: route length and capital cost. We conclude that the CBRR route is shorter and arguably has a lower capital cost than Option E. We end with some more questions for EWR Co.
This is actually good news. There is potentially a better option available for Cambridge, we just need EWR Co. to look at it again.
The references below set out some of the discussion so far on this topic.
The exact route alignment in the Option E area is still fluid at the moment and in order to make a comparison with the CBRR route, we need to make some assumptions:
There is a station to the north of Cambourne near the junction with the A428, this has widespread support in the area and should facilitate the development of Cambourne, EWR Co. say they are looking at this.
The option E route tries to maximise re-use of existing track and hence joins the Cambridge (or King’s Cross) line just south of Harston.
The EWR Eastern Section connects to Cambridge via the single-track line to Newmarket at Coldhams Common
The routes are shown diagrammatically in figure 1
Drawing out both these routes on a detailed map has allowed us to measure the distances shown in Figure 1.
CBRR Route is Shorter than Option E
We can see from the total distances in Figure 2 that the CBRR route is shorter than option E overall by 2.3km. This means that the transit time through Cambridge from west to east (or vice versa will likely be less than for option E.
As pointed out in our earlier post about unexplained cost increases, route B had a much lower capital cost than route E at the time of the consultation, but the situation changed in the option report without much explanation. EWR Co. have so far declined to answer our questions about this huge change.
Route B approaches Bedford from the north while Route E goes through a Bedford South station (Wixams). Their approach to Cambridge is the same. It seems sometime between the consultation and the option E decision, EWR Co. decided that approaching Bedford from the north was cheaper than from the south. We cannot accept this change without further explanation.
EWR Co. claim that CBRR is £0.6Bn more expensive than option B in 2019 prices.
CBRR point out that if you take the cost ratios in the 2019 Technical Report we see that Route E’s capex is 27% (2.8/2.2) higher than Route B. Applying this 27% increase to the £3.9Bn given for option B would lead to an option E capex of £5.0Bn. See Table 1 for the numbers.
It seems that option E is more expensive than CBRR using EWR Co.’s own figures given at the time of the consultation. As pointed out before, the mystery is why the ratio of Option B and E capex costs changed so much in the option report.
EWR Co. go on the say that comparing CBRR with option B is similar to comparing it with option E (option Report §16.30) There is a £200m capex difference even with their own figures in the Option Report and £600m capex difference in the Technical Report. Not small differences.
As previously noted, Route B and Route E are different at the Bedford end of the link. To compare apples with apples we really need to see what is happening between Cambourne and Cambridge. As EWRCo. have indicated, we can do this by comparing CBRR with option B, since they are the same at the Bedford end.
Cambourne to Cambridge Costs
EWR Co.’s Option Report states in $16.29 that the CBRR route will cost £600M more than some unspecified option B route in 2019 prices
Where could this £600M come from?
Figure 2 indicates that there is 3.3km of additional new track with the CBRR route compared with our assumed Option B/E route.
If we take the approximately 50km route from Bedford to Cambridge and divide that into the £3.4Bn estimated capital cost for option B we find a cost of £ 68 Million /km in 2010 prices – this of course includes stations, road and river crossings etc. It’s surprising that 3.3km of track could cost anything like £600M. Even £68M/km x 3.3km = £224.4M. That’s around £259.5M in 2019 prices.
These prices are all very high. In order to reduce noise CBRR proposed that the line be put in a sunken concrete trench. Have EWR Co. made allowance for that in their costings? If so it needs to be there for option E as well. We need an apples for apples comparison.
Part of this may be due to EWR Co. using a Cambourne South station for Option B/E rather than the Cambourne North one assumed here. However, as stated earlier, there is now a consensus that Cambourne North Station is the way to go. If so this analysis needs to be updated by EWR Co.
European Commission Report is the Taxpayer getting Value for Money?
While the Capex/km figures from EWR Co. do seem to be consistent with the much criticised HS2 costings, it is interesting to compare then with a survey of build costs around Europe published by the European Commission in 2017. In Figure 4 of this report we find that their model derived from actual builds gives a construction cost of 7.2MEuros/km for conventional track. Why are the costs here around 10 times as much? Is the taxpayer getting value for money?
The Imaginary Rowing Lake
In section §16.30 of their Option Report EWR Co. make allowance for the railway crossing a new rowing lake north of Cambridge.
However, this rowing lake plan was abandoned and is therefore not an obstacle for the EWR link north of Cambridge. As a matter of fact, given that the news article is dated from the middle of 2018 and the EWR Co. option report is dated January 2020, this allowance was already out of date at the time that the option report was published.
The CBRR route has an additional station at Northstowe. This will form part of the additional cost for the CBRR route. We know that the four tracked Cambridge South Station was estimated by Network Rail to cost £200m, but looking at this news article it seems reasonable to assume that a much simpler station at Northstowe should not cost more than £100m. A simple station at Harston was recently estimated to cost £20m, maybe that is a more appropriate figure.
Furthermore, as EWR Co. have said, they have not included any land value increase benefits around stations, (Option Report §15.16) which means that much of the potential benefit of Northstowe station is not included in the assessment. Such benefits can be very significant. The NIC report p.68 talks about a Milton Keynes case study with a tax of £18,500 per home for a new development. That would be £185M for the 10,000 homes mentioned in §16 of the Option Report. According to the same NIC report land values in the Cambridge area are twice what they are in Milton Keynes so this £185M is an under-estimate.
The response to a recent FOI request to EWR Co. about land value increases, stated that they cannot share such information as it is commercially confidential. How can the public assess the value of various routes if even estimates of such information are kept confidential? In particular, as CBRR have pointed out and EWR Co. agree the land value increases for a northern approach to Cambridge will be higher than for the South. The difference is in the amount.
Are Upgrades to Existing Track Included?
Although they all only have two tracks at the moment, due to the high demand for commuter trains to London, the tracks south of Cambridge are much busier than those similar ones to the north. This is indicated in Figure 1 by the thicker lines on tracks south of Cambridge.
Looking at trainline.com for the weekday busy hour timetable from Cambridge to King’s Cross we find 6 trains per hour (tph). We understand from EWR Co. that they want to start with a 4 tph service into Cambridge and to increase it to 6 tph if there is demand. As we have seen there is also a need to run freight trains, but we do not expect these to run during the passenger busy hour and so perhaps they will not affect capacity calculations.
It seems that the traffic into Cambridge from the south with the addition of the EWR link will likely double in terms of trains per hour. This will trigger the need to move from two tracks to four tracks certainly on the line from Gt. Shelford into Cambridge (according to EWR Co.) where there is also the traffic to Liverpool Street and maybe from Harston to Great Shelford as well. There may also be a need to replace level crossings e.g. in Great Shelford with some kind of road bridge.
The proposed upgrades around the Cambridge South station do not cover 4 tracking of much of the line.
So, the cost impact of the option B/E solution should include these improvements to the existing lines. Even if they are paid for by Network Rail rather than EWR Co. both are ultimately funded by the same taxpayers.
The CBRR route will be shorter than Option E.
The CBRR route may well have a lower capex than Option E, especially when the full impact is considered.
The EWR Co. assessment of the CBRR route has some mistakes and several unanswered questions.
Question for EWR Co.
Please can you acknowledge that a northern approach to Cambridge should lead to a shorter route to Cambridge from Cambourne North than a southern route?
Do the costings for option E include any allowance for capacity upgrades to existing track required due to the additional EWR link traffic? If not why not?
Do you agree that lines into the north of Cambridge are less busy than those into the south?
Why did option B capex become higher than option E in the Option Report when this was far from the case in the technical report?
What allowance was made for the rowing lake in the capital cost estimate for the CBRR route given in §16.30? Will you re-issue the comparison with this corrected?
Please can you explain where the additional £600M for CBRR over Option B comes from?
What assumption are you making for the cost of new track for capex/km?
Cambridge Approaches will be presenting a webinar to the Mill Road community in Cambridge (but open to all) on the subject of the likely increase in rail freight traffic through Cambridge as a result of the completion of the East West Rail link Central Section, together with some ideas about how this can be mitigated. The webinar will also be of interest to people living east of Cambridge along the single track line to Newmarket and those in the option E area.
For more background information see this post on the Mill Road Bridges web site, and our previous post on this web site.
The webinar will be held at 5pm on Saturday 19th December 2020.
“The current indicative cost estimates are based on building a rail link that accommodates all types of rail freight. EWR Co will continue to consider whether providing capability for all types of freight is affordable and provides value for money in the context of anticipated freight demand.”
In summary they are saying that all options for rail freight are option.
As previously reported on this blog EWR Co. do now confirm that their proposed Option E route will support both freight and passenger services. But then we asked then the fateful question: Will there be freight trains at night? To which the response was:
“We have a study underway, and the next consultation will provide further information on freight on EWR.”
So the suspense mounts, but previous experience with EWR Co. suggests we had better prepare ourselves for the worst.
So, we are 2 years on from the 2019 consultation and not much progress on rail freight so far. This may be because EWR Co. are not responsible for the freight services, but Grant Shapps is. If you are kept at wake at night because of freight trains, its small comfort that they are not being operated by the EWR Co.!
Local MP, Anthony Browne, organised a meeting with EWR Co. and 20-30 Option E parish councillors on the 15th October 2020. At this meeting, freight services seemed an irritation to EWR Co. They explained that freight and fast passenger trains are not very compatible in the same timetable due to their different speeds. This leads us to conclude that much of the freight traffic will run at quiet times in the passenger schedule – for example at night. But also that EWR Co. may be resistant to review their plans in the light of freight demand.
The Cambridge Approaches alternative 7 route assumes a Cambourne north station with the line crossing the A428 before heading south through rural South Cambridgeshire passing between Toft and Comberton either to join the Cambridge Line south of Harston (which might then need to be four tracked) or to pass between Trumpington and Hauxton to join the West Anglia Main Line near Great Shelford. There would be collateral damage to several other beautiful villages and pieces of countryside not mentioned here for brevity.
From there, it would continue through Cambridge including the densely populated Mill Road area. Freight trains heading to the Haven Ports will then squeal around the tight bend onto the single track branch line across Coldham’s common and on towards the single track tunnel at Newmarket.
Like all good horror shows, it’s not always over when you think. The line may disturb people sleeping in residential Cherry Hinton, Fulbourn, and block up the 5 level crossings on the way to Newmarket. If you want to know what an overloaded level crossing is like try the one at Foxton. It is down 35 minutes in the hour at peak times.
“Route of Rail Forecast” from Network Rail
Another important question is how many of the freight trains are we talking about per day (or night)?
Our lowest estimate for freight demand at opening of the EWR, in 2025, is about 20 – 30 freight trains (all types) per day. It would also require capacity upgrade of the Cambridge to Newmarket line. This is based on the England’s Economic Heartland Freight Study (from Jun 2019, see page 64).
Figure 1 above shows that the EWR link could divert about 50 freight trains per day by 2043/44. Assuming the worst case, that these ran at night to avoid conflict with the busy passenger timetable south of Cambridge, then we would have between 6 and 7 freight trains per hour. The report makes clear that this is a forecast for the total of trains going both ways. In 2043/44, we can see that the total traffic leaving the Haven Ports is between 100 and 120 trains per day.
The report explains that to alleviate capacity issues on other routes, they would want to use the new EWR and existing Felixstowe-Ely-Nuneaton lines as much as possible in order to leave the North London Line to handle freight from the North Thames terminals. Freight trains are not welcome in London where many parts of the system are heavily used by scheduled passenger trains.
On behalf of those people living close to the proposed or existing parts of the route I would ask you to stop and think about this for a minute. 6 or 7 freight trains per hour assuming all are over night. For people in the option E area and those south or east of Cambridge, consider also that when the EWR link crosses over an A road it needs around 8 metres of elevation about the road level. Freight trains demand gentle gradient, a maximum of 1:125. This implies an elevated track for 1 km either side of the A road. Noise would be heard a long distance away.
Cambridge at the Interface between Design Authorities
The EWR Central Section (Bedford to Cambridge) is being defined by EWR Co. and their contractor Arups for a fast passenger service. While the EWR Eastern Section (Cambridge to Ipswich) development is being designed by the EWR Consortium and their contractor Steer Consulting with freight from the Haven Ports in mind. But it’s one continuous railway.
Other than Grant Shapps of course, it is unclear who is responsible for the likely impact of freight on the Cambridge area. EWR Co. may protest that their 2019 consultation was non-statutory, but they are still narrowing down the options beyond the point where the Freight Night horror show for the Cambridge area becomes more and more likely.
To repeat what we have said, EWR Co. 2019 consultation did not inform the public about freight, except to say that all options are open. Nor was it mentioned in any of their analysis. Given this, how can EWR Co. possibly argue that their option E decision is still valid? We call for them to go back the drawing board listen to the public feedback about the northern approach to Cambridge, to consider also the eastern Cambridge approaches and come up with some new options that show more joined up thinking.
The CBRR Scheme and the Coldam’s Common Game
A map of the CamBedRailRoad (CBRR) proposal is here and its 14 identified advantages are set out here. It can be seen that CBRR propose a chord from the north (shown in red on the map above) around the edge of Coldham’s common so that through trains do not have to turn around on their journey through Cambridge. This CBRR route would also greatly reduce the amount of residential Cambridge blighted by the freight noise, because the route goes past fewer residential areas and the new chord would be less tightly curved. As a variant it would be possible to have a northern freight route that bypassed Cambridge completely.
EWR Co. removed the CBRR chord proposal in §16.15-§16.17 of their option report with such devastating arguments as it would cost money (who knew?) and the Coldham’s Common is a local nature reserve! (that is the pot calling the kettle black, don’t get us started on the environmental damage Option E would cause to South Cambridgeshire).
The CBRR route does mean passengers on through trains would need to change at Cambridge North rather than Cambridge Central if they want to go to Cambridge. Not a huge problem except for EWR Co. it seems (see option report §16.15). Of course if they want to go to Cambridge South or Stansted they can just stay on the train. (with the southern approach they would have to change.)
Then, in §16.22 of the Option Report EWR Co. we find this.
“However, approaching Cambridge from the north would require a reversing move at Cambridge station for any onward journeys to/from Ipswich, and to/from Norwich if services were to serve Cambridge rather than bypass the city, which would further increase journey times.”
BUT, THAT’S BECAUSE YOU DELETED THE CBRR CHORD!!!
CBRR rebutted every point in §16 of the option report here.
Game, set and match to CBRR on that one. Except that, oh dear, EWR Co. write the rules and so cannot lose. See here for further information
Rail Freight is a good thing, but in the right place.
Compared to transporting freight on the road, rail freight is a much greener approach, furthermore we can expect that by 2043/44 EWR will be electrified, and hopefully well before. However, the noise impact will still be very significant and there is really no reason to have to run this freight line through so many residential areas for the next 100 years.
Rail freight has to be part of the answer to the government’s objective to reduce carbon emissions and we support it for that reason.
As a parting thought the EWR Consortium say that the EWR link could be used to supply material for the construction of Sizewell C. The current approach could see large amounts of radio active material regularly passing through central Cambridge. Rail freight is good, but the line needs to be in the right place.
If it’s built we will see a significant amount of freight traffic on the EWR line. The West Anglia Main Line and Cambridge Line are already busy and if minimal upgrades are made then there will be pressure to run freight services at night. We call on EWR Co. to be much clearer on this point so that people know what is being proposed.
The whole section of the EWR link around Cambridge needs to be designed as a single system between Cambourne in the west say to Chippenham junction east of Newmarket. Having a change of design authority and budget holder at Cambridge almost bound to lead to sub-optimal solutions.
You can show your support for a better solution by signing CBRR’s petition for a fair assessment of a northern approach to Cambridge.
It’s time to ask again for a fair evaluation the EWR approach into Cambridge either to a north or south station. There are problems with the selection of option E which have been flagged on this site, in our stakeholder meetings and elsewhere.
CamBedRailRoad started a petition before the last EWR Co. consultation with the right question. Their petition to the Department for Transport already has more signatures than the number of people who supported option E in the consultation response.
The barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus), one of the UK’s rarest mammals, is primarily a woodland species, the colonies of which usually roost within ancient woodland trees. There are only a small number of known colonies of this species in Cambridgeshire, one of which is within woodland around the National Trust property at Wimpole.
Barbastelle bats typically select cracks and crevices in which to roost, mostly in old or damaged trees in ancient woodlands, but cracks and crevices in and around the timbers of old buildings may also be used. The Barbastelle bats at Wimpole form a maternity colony and within a colony there can be multiple roosts where groups of females gather to give birth and rear their young during the summer. The adult male barbastelle bats tend to roost elsewhere in isolation at this time.
Barbastelles feed mainly on small to medium sized moths, they have a unique form of echo location known as ‘stealth echolocation’ —echolocation at intensities that are inaudible to distant moths. Their calls are more than 10 times quieter than those of other bats which hunt insects in the same way.
Barbastelles forage on average up to 5-7kms from their woodland roosts, though individual bats may forage further afield within the surrounding countryside. Between 2002 and 2005 the Cambridgeshire Bat Group surveyed, radio tagged and tracked bats from the Wimpole maternity colony and found that one adult female foraged as far afield as Grantchester, cited as 11km from the roost. (Vine C, 2002).
Will the proposed rail route impact on the Barbastelle Bats?
Table 1 Crow flies distances from Wimpole Maternity Roost to villages on Option E preferred route.
Grantchester * is included in Table 1 as this is the furthest distance that a barbastelle bat was tracked by the Cambridgeshire Bat Group, it is not in Option E.
The villages highlighted in bold are all within the 5-7km foraging range and all villages, apart from Great Shelford, are within 11km. It should be noted that the radio-tracking carried out was only of a small number of individual bats at any one time and the absence of bats tracking to the other villages potentially impacted by the proposed route, does not indicate that barbastelle bats are absent from these villages, only that the radio-tagged bats were not tracked to these villages at the time of the survey.
Barbastelles prefer rural landscapes with deciduous woodland, wet meadows and water bodies. They commute to foraging sites along linear landscape features, such as woodland edges and hedgerows, similar to the hedgerows that act as wildlife corridors and connect our villages. The flight and foraging lines of the Wimpole barbastelles include the Bourn Brook corridor and the River Rhee, as well as the old Varsity railway line at the MRAO site, they have also been known to cross open areas such as arable fields to reach foraging grounds.
The Option E route is likely to bisect multiple known flight lines and foraging routes, see Map 1:
Disruption to the foraging routes and flight lines could have a potentially significant impact on the barbastelle bats foraging habits, particularly impacting on the breeding females, putting at risk the maternity roost and thus ultimately the species. The species is very sensitive to disturbance, including disturbance to roost-sites and access to food resources, which may be why it is such a rare bat. The Barbastelle is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, the species is classified as ‘near threatened’ with extinction (IUCN Red List 2020)
Are Barbastelle Bats Protected?
All bat species and their roosts are fully protected by UK legislation (the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) as amended), and by EU law (the Habitats Directive, transposed into UK legislation by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017) which makes them European Protected Species. The Wimpole and Eversden Woods have the highest level of protection; the area is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the Habitats Directive, a designation brought about solely because of the presence of a breeding colony of barbastelle bats.
The UK is also a signatory to the Agreement on the Conservation of Bats in Europe, set up under the Bonn Convention. The Fundamental Obligations of Article III of this Agreement require the protection of all bats and their habitats, including the identification and protection from damage or disturbance of important feeding areas for bats.
However, the current legislation does provide defences so that necessary operations may be carried out in places used by bats, provided the appropriate Statutory Nature Conservation Organisation (in England this is Natural England) is notified and allowed a reasonable time to advise on whether the proposed operation should be carried out and, if so, the approach to be used. Licenses are required and a Habitats Regulation Assessment should be undertaken prior to Planning Approval being granted, under the Habitats Directive.
The Wimpole and Eversden Woods area, having a SAC designation, is required to have Conservation Objectives and these are noted as:
“Ensure that the integrity of the site is maintained or restored as appropriate, and ensure that the site contributes to achieving the Favourable Conservation Status of its Qualifying Features, by maintaining or restoring;
The extent and distribution of the habitats of qualifying species
The structure and function of the habitats of qualifying species
The supporting processes on which the habitats of qualifying species rely
The populations of qualifying species, and,
The distribution of qualifying species within the site”
This means that when considering a potential impact to the integrity of the SAC, the foraging and commuting routes of the barbastelles must be taken into account.
It is noted that EWR Co. have commissioned bat surveys and early publication of the results, including any appropriate actions to be taken with regard to the route alignments would be helpful in reassuring the public that EWR Co. are meeting their legal obligations and stated high environmental standards. Unfortunately it seems that any route through the already selected option E area will impact the barbastelles, it is recommended within the Habitats Directive that large infrastructure projects up to 5-10km from a SAC site should undertake a Habitats Regulation Assessment, to date this has not been done and it is not clear how an HRA would impact on the decision of Option E being the preferred route, or identify any mitigations to reduce the negative impact on the barbastelle bat population.
Barbastelle bats, like all bat species in England are well protected by legislation, the Wimpole barbastelle bats have the highest level of protection. The Habitats Directive includes protection of the habitat, including the flight and foraging lines upon which the bats rely to successfully breed and rear young.
It is clear that a rail route bisecting the foraging and flight paths of the bats is likely to impact on the colony and the bats ability to nurture and rear young. The extent to which it impacts will depend upon the chosen route and mitigations. It is known that flight line Gantry’s which have been used on some major road developments are both expensive and ineffective and are no longer recommended. Some European countries use Green Bridges for priority species protection but the effectiveness for bat species is not well documented.
Barbastelle bat survey data, undertaken as recommended by the Bat Conservation Trust Good Practice Guidance (2016) will be crucial in informing the planning application, any associated HRA and the final route alignment.
BAROVA Sylvia (European Commission) & STREIT Andreas (UNEP/EUROBATS) (Ed) 2018 Action Plan for the Conservation of All Bat Species in the European Union 2018 – 2024
Collins J (Ed) 2016 Bat Surveys for Professional Ecologists: Good Practice Guidelines (3rd Ed) The Bat Conservation Trust, London
Damant S, Vine C (2006) The Barbastelle at Wimpole Nature In Cambridgeshire No 48 pp62-65
European Protected Species National Planning Policy – National Planning Policy
Framework (NPPF) 2019
Lewanzik D, Goerlitz HR. 2018 Continued source level reduction during attack in the low-amplitude bat Barbastella barbastellus prevents moth evasive flight.Funct Ecol. 00:1–11.
Natural England 2018 European Site Conservation Objectives: supplementary advice on conserving and restoring site features Eversden and Wimpole Woods Special Area of Conservation (SAC) – Site code: UK 0030331
Natural England European Site Conservation Objectives for Eversden and Wimpole Woods SAC (UK0030331)
**** For people new to this website: Cambridge Approaches favours a northern approach to Cambridge. Routes in this post are showing what might happen if we don’t do anything. They are not routes that are endorsed by Cambridge Approaches. ***
East West Rail’s Option E has located the Cambourne station to the south of the town. We think this is a misguided and short-sighted proposal that would fail to deliver potential commercial benefits, be more inconvenient for passengers and damaging to the environment.
The prime reason for this is that a station to the south, near Caxton, is completely impractical for the current housing and for the planned housing developments at West Cambourne and Bourn Airfield as well as expected developments to the north. Locating the station to the north of the A428 would not only unlock commercial benefits for the town in terms of land values but also reduce the number and length of commuter car trips required to the station. It would allow the area to be more easily developed according to the local plan and the wishes of local people who may not care about an extra 2 minutes to get to Oxford because, frankly, they very rarely go there anyway.
A transport hub north of the A428 connecting the CAM (the proposed metro system) and C2C (the proposed Cambourne to Cambridge busway), which both plan to follow the A428 near Cambourne, and a north Cambourne EWR station would provide an efficient overall transport system between homes and workplaces. The ‘multi-modal corridor’ (i.e. running different forms of transport in one corridor) objective of the OxCam Arc could be supported by an EWR station close to the A428 expressway north of Cambourne. Although an alternative C2C route has recently been suggested to connect to a south Cambourne station, it would need to cut across green recreational parkland areas within Cambourne – clearly undesirable.
Such a northern station also allows EWR total flexibility in the choice of a northerly or southerly approach into Cambridge – a station in south Cambourne would effectively lock EWR into a southerly route. While EWR’s current proposal (part of their Option E) is to enter Cambridge via the proposed Cambridge South station, they have accepted, recently more openly, that there is a case for entering Cambridge via Cambridge North. This route would serve communities in Northstowe, Oakington and the many planned developments in this area, and hence improve the currently poor business case, as well as minimising the environmental damage that a new rail line will cause.
By locating the station to the north of the A428, the EWR line would not need to cross the planned A428 expressway between the Black Cat and Caxton Gibbet roundabouts (i.e. to the west of Cambourne) and so dispense with a major design interface which is all too often the cause of significant cost overruns and programme delays.
The environment too would benefit from a north Cambourne station. By integrating the station with the local housing developments, the visual impact could be reduced compared to a station in open countryside. The route out of a north Cambourne station towards Cambridge should follow the A428 for several miles, whichever approach into Cambridge is finally adopted. This multi-modal alignment would have less impact on wildlife, including the legally protected Special Area of Conservation at Wimpole and Eversden and the foraging and flight lines of the Barbastelle bats, all over the current Option E area than if the road and rail ran along separate routes. The same can be said of the route from a Cambourne north station west towards Bedford where there is an opportunity for a multi-modal corridor all the way to the Black Cat Roundabout, a distance of over 17 miles. Other advantages of multi-modal corridors include less damage to precious farmland, less disturbance to rural villages and less severance of important links between villages e.g. for school children, not to mention the MRAO planning exclusion zone. We have highlighted the advantages of multi-modal corridors before along with our example route to Cambridge South.
This Cambourne North Station proposal is strongly supported by Cambourne Town Council, members of South Cambridgeshire District Council and local MP Anthony Browne. It was also a core component of the popular CBRR proposal. It has so many advantages over the current Option E solution.
It may be possible to have a Cambourne North Station and a route around the edge of Bourn Airfield and then back on to the option E line (see alternative 7 above). We have some reports that this is what EWR Co. are planning. Public recording of survey evidence and the strange assumption we understand (from Anthony Browne’s constituency office) that EWR Co. are making about not needing to double the busy Cambridge Line south of Shepreth Branch junction point to something like our alternative 4 route for the approach to Cambridge south. This would be an environmental and planning blight disaster for our area and not make full use of the possible multi-modal corridors. There is an opportunity for EWR Co. to do the right thing by the communities they aim to serve and in the process provide some sorely needed improvement to the weak business case for their railway that we will all be paying for.
We will have to wait until the New Year before we know whether EWR also see the sense of this.
We sent questions associated with the unexplained cost increases post to EWR Co. at the same time that we put them on this web site. There should be a fundamental review of the validity any project who cost has tripled in 12 months!
We have also asked about why we can’t see the results of the publicly funded environmental surveys conducted so far. They say it’s GDPR, however, we have cases where they won’t even share the results with the landowner who land is being surveyed. Lack of transparency is never good especially with public money. What do EWR Co. have to hide on this?
There is difference in emphasis between verbal assurances and written answers given by the East West Rail Company. For example, we have heard on more than one occasion verbally, that roads and rights of way cut by the railway would be restored unless it was just about impossible to do so (Ian Parker at the “Let’s Restart the Conversation” meeting, Will Gallagher at the CA-EWR meeting with Anthony Browne). The “substantive response” to the same question talks about each crossing being dealt with on an individual basis. A lot less reassuring.
“East West Rail presents a huge opportunity to become a secondary freight route, enabling more services to bypass congested London routes currently used to get to the South West, Midlands and the North. It also presents an opportunity to move aggregates for the development of new housing and nationally significant projects, such as Sizewell C.”
An earlier response from EWR Co. on the subject of freight received by a member of the CA working group ran as follows:
“In relation to your question about freight, we are currently designing the route to be compatible for both passenger and freight services in the future. We will look to ensure the route supports existing freight, and are currently undertaking a study to understand potential freight use.
The remit we’ve been given by the Department for Transport covers the infrastructure between Oxford and Cambridge, opening up new, long-distance journeys for people who can both take advantage of the EWR services or change directly onto main lines coming north/south the majority of which inter-change with the route. We continue to work to ensure that EWR enables good connectivity beyond the area between Oxford and Cambridge. There’s nothing in our plans that would preclude us from expanding our remit were the Secretary of State to request it.
We’re aware of proposals for EWR services to be extended further east from Cambridge into Norwich/Ipswich and beyond – specifically, the proposals put forward by the East West Rail Consortium in their publication “the Eastern Section Prospectus for Growth” published in January 2019. We look forward to hearing how this progresses.”
The implication here is that they have a very passive involvement with freight while the people developing the business case for freight services on the eastern section, do not have to face any scrutiny from the people affected by the new railway central section. The situation is deceptive – which is why we are pointing it out.
There was no mention of freight services in the 2019 EWR Co. consultation, but it now emerges that freight may well be significant. If, like me, you are skeptical about the demand for commuting between Oxford and Cambridge, freight may in fact end up being the dominant user of the line. The implication is that the 2019 EWR Co. consultation was misleading and hence invalid because it did not mention freight.
It is also interesting to learn that no Strategic Environmental Assessment has been performed, because they do not need one. Why is that? We have a lot more to say about the environmental side of this. Stay tuned.
Following on from the very well attended Eversdens meeting on 17th November, thank you for the huge turnout for the 4 villages webinar on Friday. A recording for those people that missed it is here.