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Briefing Note for EWR Drop In 19th July 2022 *** POSTPONED ***

Sunset on Haslingfield? – How long will this Beautiful Countryside Remain?

East West Rail Co. are holding a drop-in session from 2pm to 8pm at Haslingfield Village Hall, CB23 1JP on Tuesday 19th July 2022.

The South Cambridgeshire countryside is a beautiful area full of nature reserves, handsomely tended farms, pretty woodland and the occasional vineyard, it’s been that way for centuries. Unfortunately, that’s where the nice part of the story ends. The government have trusted the routing of this new railway line to EWRCo. who have decided on an approach that can only have been decided on cost as it completely ignores what is right for communities and the environment. Their plan is to put a railway on top of a ten-metre high embankment (higher than a house) right across our countryside, blighting it for centuries to come. The impact on our lives and the value of our homes of this “Great Wall” will be devastating both long term and during the years of construction.

Briefing

  1. On 30th May 2022, new EWR Co. CEO Beth West said to campaigners in Bedford that they are submitting a revised business case to the Department for Transport (DfT) at the end of June. DfT/Treasury decision will take months after that.
  • A recent Network Rail report compared EWR and peak road transit times. They found a 12-minute advantage for EWR from Cambridge Station to Bedford Midland Station. National Highways say peak road will reduce by 10 minutes when the planned A428 improvements are implemented. EWR will only provide benefits for a small proportion of trips between Cambridge and Bedford.
  • The local housing and transport plans have taken no account of the proposed EWR Bed-Cam route. The OxCam Arc “spatial framework” to integrate these will not now be produced. Thus, high first / last mile transit times for the railway will remain a problem. Michael Gove spoke about the Arc at the Levelling Up Select committee recently and distanced himself from ribbon development between Cambridge and Oxford. The EWR was an integral part of the OxCam Arc – which, it seems, is no more.
  • UK railways lose money on average, particularly since the pandemic. EWR has no large cities along its route, so we can expect lower than average passenger traffic, especially considering competition with road. Nationally, freight revenues are small compared to passenger fares.
  • 70 local parish councils, district councillors, county councillors and the combined authority Mayor signed a letter to DfT forwarded by Anthony Browne MP asking for the business case to be published or the project cancelled. The rail minster responded without addressing the question at all.
  • Although DfT have a target to make railways net zero. EWR Co. have no definition of what that means. Does it include the estimated 866,000 lorry movements required to construct the Great Wall of S. Cambs? Or the thousands of additional houses?
  • Three years ago, in the January 2019 consultation, the target date for the EWR planning application was the end of 2021. Recent communication with EWR indicates that this date has slipped at least to the end 2024. According to their annual report to April 2021, EWR Co. have 150 staff with a median salary of £90,000, but the project has not progressed towards the planning application for the last 3 years.

Some Questions you might Consider asking EWR Co. at their drop in Event

  1. Are the delays in producing the 2021 consultation response really because EWR Co. are waiting for a green light to proceed on the business case? (the high number of responses being more of a cover).
  2. Do EWR Co. agree that all statements they make should be backed up by rigorous evidence? (If so why do they make so many anecdotal points).
  3. Is the northern approach to Cambridge still actively being considered?
  4. How have EWRCo. assessed the number of people that would use this railway and why don’t they publish all the numbers?
  5. Given the 3x cost increase in 2020, what cost reduction measures have been considered and how do they affect the proposed route/solution?
  6. Why have EWR Co. made no progress towards the planning application in the last three years?
  7. We are aware of the options, but how will EWR Co. reduce the height of the Great Wall? 
  8. Do EWR Co. have an open mind on whether the project should go ahead, or do they start from the answer that it should. Are they not conflicted because their jobs depend on it?
  9. How is this project consistent with the Government’s levelling up policy? 
  10. Why would peak ticket prices be any cheaper than 55p/mile seen on Thameslink and, accounting for £12.50/day parking, at Cambridge station how will this compete with the marginal cost of using a car? (Most families in the area need a car anyway and the marginal cost of an electric car is around 7p/mile).

There is a complete lack of transparency on the part of EWRCo. They have provided no detail on how they reached their decision for the approach into Cambridge. They have not responded to the public consultation and they have not presented a business case to justify spending tax payer’s money. Please stand firm against it and make your feelings heard. 

10 replies on “Briefing Note for EWR Drop In 19th July 2022 *** POSTPONED ***”

The present government has abandoned true public consultation to the undemocratic abuse of power delegated to private commercial interests – securing approval for planning projects on a cost basis privileging private interests and ignoring all other matters of environmental, amenity, social, and public interests.

I honestly can’t see why EWR is still going ahead, when the northern part of HS2 has been axed. Do Oxford or Cambridge really need this project(even setting aside how badly planned it is)? The North certainly does require investment and was promised it. Spend the money there not here!

No doubt brown envelopes are furtively changing hands somewhere along the line.
If this project is free of cronyism, corruption, and a fortune to be made for some Government crony or relative it’ll be a first.

Save Chapel Hill. Why have we heard nothing from Historic England, historians or archeologists.
Money Hill is an ancient monument. Why have we let farmers and now railway companys dominate our historic landscape.

An additional point – what use is this to people living along the Great Wall. As proposed Cambridge South and Cambourne stations will be the only two to “serve” this area. The car park at Foxton is not on proposed route.

“Business case”- What case? Never was one on basis of passenger numbers and a transport improvement in South Cambridgeshire. Diversionary route, perhaps. Freight, perhaps. Perhaps a case could have been made for an East West rail link, NOT on this ridiculous route though. Expansion of existing lines and a direct link from Midland Main Line to East Coast Line prior to Covid, perhaps.

The confused thinking, in part due to changing ideas and rapid development during the 1995 -2022 planning stages (still no plans of course) with 100’s of reports, proposals, meetings (just look at the consortium list of in-actions since inception), Ox-Cam Arc, mixing with the Metro (scrapped) and Busway routes, Rail Track, Network Rail, East West Rail Co. The other part is simply that the people that could agree to make this happen, don’t want it, would never use it and have vested interests in the status quo. At the same time vast amounts of money have been spent producing no output. When Tax payers money is involved who cares, gravy train for a view. No train for those of us that might use one.

Confusing local and regional with national transport could never result in a one sized fit all situation. We, along this nonsense “Great Wall Route”, could still suffer and have our beautiful countryside ruined for ever, it is even at this stage of the saga hard to see plans being radically altered unless a massive objection is seen.

Of course a 30 year planned Metro expanding out from Cambridge (as proposed, is the answer). Sadly as been shown with East West Rail our local bodies and politicians are just not up to the task of sorting transport out locally. In a strange way Covid has come to the rescue (only in regard to transport), working from home is probably having a greater positive impact on the environment and has improved many peoples quality of life. But many still need to attend work and a decent metro would have solved this. No chance with the incompetents we have in Cambridgeshire and Department of Transport.

This is all about enabling property development in the OxMkCam arc. These ponzi developers will not stop until all countryside in the arc has been concreted over.

The old varsity train line was closed due to lack of use. Many pensioners took advantage of the free local travel on the old X5 bus but few travelled from Cambridge to Oxford. The average speed for car journeys between the two cities is 30.6 mph under the best conditions.

So is there hope for sustainable personal mobility between these cities which does not cost an arm and a leg? Yes there is, Greenways would allow ultra-light vehicles to make this journey probably faster than a car could do this now.

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