Reflections on the Eversdens and Harston EWR Drop-In Events June 22 & 26th 2023

There was a great turn out from local people to both these events. Good effort from EWRCo. for putting them on. Some of the staff were more knowledgeable / forthcoming than the low base of last year’s “no new information” event in Haslingfield. One thing I did notice was that EWRCo. staff never took any notes of what had been said to them, either they have good memories or perhaps the input is filed in the bin. Tick box exercise or consultation with the public? You decide.

Figure 1 Cambridge Approaches Protest in the Eversdens 22nd June 2023

Figure 2 Cambridge Approaches Protest in Harston 26th June 2023 (front page on the Cambridge News and the Independent)

Noisy Protest at the EWR Drop-in Event Harston 26/6/2023

There was also a good turnout from local politicians. We even had the Lib Dem MP candidate for the next General Election acknowledge the poor business case that the railway has in a tweet shortly after the event. Her opposite number also appeared in a puff of blue smoke and told the assembled crowds that “personally, he was against the railway” to great applause.  Democracy in action for the politicians.

In contrast, EWRCo. continued like the Titanic, completely unsinkable.

Figure 3 Is EWR Unsinkable?

As always there were interesting conversations with EWRCo. staff inside the hall. Here are some of them. Do add more in the comments. I have changed the names to protect the innocent! (with apologies to Douglas Adams).

“I spoke to a business case guy, Marvin, who had been at EWR a year. He said he had never worked on a project with a lower BCR than this one.  He also encouraged me to keep fighting the project(!) and didn’t make it sound like the northern approach was off the table.”

There was a recorded video of Beth West at the end of the room. It seems that someone had been sick over the video screen. Afterwards Trillian explained “Sorry, but my son vomited over the Beth West video screen”. I suspect it was at the point where Ms West was explaining that Tempsford is a brown-field site, even though RAF Tempsford is outside the 2km catchment for the station. Unfortunate, but understandable – the vomiting that is.

“I spoke to Zaphod on the business case side. He did not know that the local plan was held up by the water infrastructure. ‘Yeah, someone else told me that, just now’” I mean EWRCo. has only spent £150 million over the past two years studying the problem, you can’t expect them to know about our water infrastructure problems can you?

Zaphod also said, ‘we’re going to have to work hard on the business case because we have chosen the most expensive route. Yes, we also need to look at the local plan. I asked about there being only 20% of Cambridge commuters from Cambourne using the railway and would that not make the roads busier. He said ‘yes, rail is not a dominant mode [of transport]’. He also said, ‘it’s about houses, it’s always been about houses’.”

I challenged the Will Gallagher on the point that the jobs target for Cambridge in the local plan is an independently assessed demand estimate and that the local plan already has the interventions necessary to support those jobs. 57,000 houses supported by GCP’s various transport schemes. Either the 28,200 jobs that EWR is trying to support is additional the local plan – in which case why was the independently assessed forecast wrong? Or it is part of the local plan numbers in which case which part of the local plan needs to be undone? After a bit of dancing around he said, “it’s a fair challenge” and followed up with “in the end the chancellor will decide”. Resistance is futile.

“I spoke to Ford Prefect on the business case side and explained that lack of water infrastructure was a serious risk to his business plan, he replied that this was an environmental problem and that I should speak to an environmental person. I explained the concept of “responsibility dispersion” in the context of a railway project which was 95% about housing but the transport organisation proposing it took no responsibility for signing off on that housing and nor so far did anyone else. He thanks me for teaching him a new term. Responsibility dispersion, he’ll probably find it useful.”

“So, I spoke to an environment person, Wowbagger, who gave a great explanation of how biodiversity net gain would work. After an assessment of the number of units of biodiversity lost (the unit for biodiversity is called the “unit”), they would acquire land, ideally alongside the railway and create replacement habitats. In some cases, ten times the land area would be needed for the replacement as was lost in the first place. I asked if that meant they needed 2x or 10x the land for the railway and the housing developments to achieve the object. Wowbagger didn’t have an estimate, but it would not be that much.”

“I spoke to one of the local farmers at the event and he confirmed that he had been asked to sell them more land than was strictly required for the railway. He told them where to go with that.”

If you have more feedback from the event do add it to the comments.

Business Case news

The Savanta study: do people support the East West Railway?

The East West Railway Company’s web site claims that “71% of people support an east-west public transport connection”. 

Given that EWRCo. have persistently refused to publish a business case for their project, it’s hard to see how anyone that cares about good use of public money can make an informed judgement about it. What information we have indicates that it will have a high capital cost and thereafter make operational losses considerably higher than the national average for UK railways. The logic[1] for central government support for the project is around a step change in housing growth in the OxCam Arc.

When looking at survey results it’s good to know

a) what was the question
b) who was asked the question and
c) who funded the study.

These questions are hard to tell from the EWRCo. website, but a recent response to a freedom of information request to them kindly gives us more detail. This is in the form of a presentation from a company called Savanta who performed the survey and reports on the main results to EWRCo.

This new information allows us to better address the questions a) to c) above.

What was the question?

There were several questions in the survey. The one referred to by the statistic on the EWRCo. website was this (presumably because EWRCo. liked the answer):

Do you think a new east-west public transport link, which connects communities between Oxford, Bicester, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge, is a good idea?

To say yes to this question requires no commitment to use it and the question could be referring to a bus route. A more challenging question for EWRCo. would have been whether people would regularly use their railway service.

One of the justifications for the OxCam Arc / EWR has been to solve problems related to the affordability of housing in cities. In this Savanta survey 45% of people said there would be a negative impact on affordability against only 17% who thought it would be positive. Why didn’t EWRCo. publish that?

Who was asked the question?

The summary provided by Savanta says that they conducted 1,000 interviews with individuals living within the East West Rail catchment area. 700 interviews were over the phone and 300 were face to face in Oxford, Cambridge, Milton Keynes/ Bletchley, Bedford, Sandy, Cambourne, Aylesbury and Bicester. 

Leeds University Institute for Transport Studies define the catchment area for a railway station as being within 800 metres[2] . This gives an indication where the people interviewed in the Savanta study were in the towns and cities indicated.  In all the surveyed towns, the proposed EWR station already exists except in the case of the small town of Cambourne where it is proposed to be next to an existing dual carriageway.

In general, the people surveyed will be expecting little disruption to their lives from the construction of the railway since there are existing tracks and some new options to travel to places that they currently cannot get to so quickly by rail. These people are a tiny fraction of the overall population of the area between Oxford and Cambridge and are likely to be those with the most to gain and the least to lose. The location of the people surveyed perhaps also explains why so many thought that house prices would go up – not a bad thing if you already own a house in the catchment area. To make the point another way by reducing it to the absurd: if you were asked whether you would like a publicly funded green helicopter service to wherever you want to go on demand from the end of your street – what would you say?

Who funded the study?

Of course, Savanta were funded by the EWRCo.  Both parties would therefore be motivated to find a valid but positive result for the EWR project. EWRCo. must know where the support for the railway lies based on their extensive but unpublished consultation results, so they would know where to conduct the survey. Not mentioning the fact that the survey was conducted in the catchment areas for their existing stations in their publicity seems misleading on the part of EWRCo.

Please ignore this flawed study. 

[1] such as it is, given the unsolved first and last mile problem.



Reflections on EWRCo.’s Haslingfield Drop-In Event 12th October 2022

Interviewed in Radio Cambridgeshire, Nellie the pantomime white elephant welcomed EWR to the herd. She said, “Like all good white elephants, EWR is ridiculous and its costs greatly exceed its benefits.”

EWRCo. held their “no new information” drop-in event in Haslingfield, and they delivered as promised. There was indeed no new information about the proposed railway which has been blighting our communities since April Fool’s day last year.

Here at Cambridge Approaches we put in a lot of effort in to publicise their event (7,000 leaflets, 1,000 bin posters, social media campaign etc). We also invited the press along to see what was going on. This was the first chance most people have had to meet EWRCo. staff face to face. Why didn’t EWRCo. do any of that? The event was well attended and EWRCo., reported 550 attendees. Not bad on a working day for an event advertising no new information.

Illustration of the 10m high Embankments Proposed by EWRCo. for their Great Wall

Local farmer Edd also kindly parked his cherry picker outside the venue and set it to a height of 10m as specified in the latest Great Wall proposals from EWRCo., we also marked out the width of their proposed embankments to 70m. Seeing the height of it, the EWRCo. spokesperson was clearly in denial and was heard to say “it will never be that high”. We advise her to read her own consultation document.

In case they were in doubt about what we would like from them, hundreds of people had put out “Show Us the Business Case” on their bins along all the main roads through the surrounding villages and in Haslingfield.

Bin Posters “Show us the Business Case in Haslingfield and Surrounding Villages

And our request was answered. The business case appeared in the form of Nellie the pantomime EWR White Elephant with a price tag of £7.6billion. Interviewed in Radio Cambridgeshire, Nellie the pantomime white elephant welcomed EWR to the herd. She said, “Like all good white elephants, EWR is ridiculous and its costs greatly exceed its benefits.”

Steve also bought along a 3D map of the area so people could see what the effect of the railway would be locally. There was lots of interest from people attending the event.

Topographic map of the Haslingfield area with EWR proposals. This does not show what it would look like during the years of construction.

Meanwhile the Pantomime Continued in the Methodist Church

I didn’t meet anyone that was in favour of the proposed route, but maybe there were one or two.  Many residents were pretty angry, but we did not get to the situation reached at the Wyboston Lakes EWR drop-in where residents of the Bedford Poets area were so angry that EWR Co. felt they had to call in the police to calm things down. 

The drop-in meeting was bound to be difficult, since the interests of residents and the EWR Co. staff were clearly different and hard to reconcile. This was exacerbated by the policy of no new information sustained now for 18 months; the lack of briefing on predicable questions given to the EWRCo. staff and their generally low level of knowledge about the project. Staff turnover seems to be high and there were many new faces.

We had a de-brief session amongst some of the people from our campaign to exchange experiences we had had with the drop-in session. Here are some of the things we found.

Deflecting Questions

The job given to the poorly briefed EWRCo. staff was to stand talking to angry/upset residents for six hours while giving out no new information. Tough one that. Deflecting questions was therefore the core skill. Here are some of the techniques/answers that were reported on the day.

  1. I can’t answer that, I just want to build things.
  2. I’ve just been with EWR for 2 months, I’ll ask a colleague
  3. I wasn’t with the project then
  4. We are studying that
  5. Big infrastructure projects all do it this way, we’re following standard procedures
  6. Qu. Will you disclose the business case? Ans. The DfT owns the business case – Qu. but I asked DfT and they won’t disclose it because they don’t want to upset EWRCo. Ans. What was their exact wording?
  7. We’d like to publish the business case, but we are still progressing it
  8. We are looking at lowering the very high embankments
  9. On the subject of the route: “it has to go somewhere”
  10. You will need to speak to X, but they are not here today
  11. Qu. Can you find this out for me? Answer: “You need to use the normal contact point”.  Qu. “but I did two weeks ago and have not even received and acknowledgement.  Answer “Silence.”


  1. I’ll talk to you when you have calmed down, I’m human and understand your concerns.
  2. There’s no point me answering that, you’re not going to listen to what I say. She then walks away and follows up with “Are you ready to talk?”
  3. ‘It’s not like ‘the Apprentice’ you know, it’s not a quick thing…it’s really complicated.

More Deflection

  1. We will compensate you if you have noise, vibration or mental distress. After [we build it] you will need to fill out a form to illustrate what is happening to your home and then we [will] evaluate it.
  2. We have already lost 10-20% of the value of our homes, will there be any compensation for that? – silence.

Conflicting Information

  1. On the question “Are you set on the southern approach to Cambridge? Answers included “yes”, “no” and “maybe”.


These are best shown by example.

EWRCo. “We’ve made no decisions yet (route consideration). I wish I could tell you that but we don’t know. There’s business case with a capital B and C and business case with a small b and c. We don’t have passenger numbers but there are so many things to visit in the area we’re sure the railway will be used. Us: So the purpose of the line is tourism? EWRCo.: yes maybe..!”

On Radio Cambridgeshire the following morning, we were treated to the following. 

Dotty McLeod: “And in what way Hannah was it [the drop-in event] useful for you?”

Hannah Staunton: “It’s always helpful to be able to talk to the public, and really dial into some of the key topics and things that they’re interested in, that they could be concerned about as well. In some cases, it’s really helpful for us to be able to explain to people why some of the things that they are concerned about perhaps aren’t as concerning as they could be, or maybe talk to them about some of the benefits of the scheme that they haven’t otherwise heard. So, it’s really useful to gauge how people are feeling and what people are thinking, and then the team can go away and consider that as we go through the design and planning scheme.”

To be fair, we did not hear so much of the standard line “we are still going through the X billion pieces of feedback we received in the 2021 consultation and considering how every piece should influence what we decide” – or words to that effect. I guess even that does wear a bit thin after 18 months. In reality we are all waiting for the government to decide if they want to buy his white elephant.

Comment Please

Do join in with your experiences in the comments. If you actually learnt anything that would be even better.


EWR Co. Drop In Event – 12th Oct 2-8pm Haslingfield Methodist Church

New Date and Venue for Haslingfield Drop In Event

EWR Drop In Event 9th Sept 2022 Postponed Again

Message from EWRCo.:

“It is with great sadness to learn of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

We have made the decision to postpone the East West Railway Company public drop-in event scheduled for 2pm on Friday 9 September.

We will share details of a rescheduled event.

If you have any questions, please call 0330 134 0067 or email”

It is of course the right decision.

Business Case news

East West Rail Co. Have Overstated EWR Benefits

In response to an open letter from Cambridge Approaches, EWRCo. tackled the important issue of the economic justification for the railway. They made the following statement.

By providing reliable, affordable and sustainable transport for people in and around Cambridge, businesses will thrive and grow, igniting an exciting ecosystem of business and academia that The Economist recently reported could contribute up to £274bn per year for the UK in gross added value. Seen in that context, the value driven by EWR is clear. More than that, it’s a catalyst for economic growth that will support the wider UK recovery.” East West Rail Co. Article in Cambridge Independent 16/8/2022

Implication – build EWR and you will get £274bn/year just from the Cambridge economy. Let’s fact check this claim.

The article they refer to in the Economist actually says:

“A study prepared by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership in 2020 found that the region between Oxford and Cambridge contributed £111bn in gross value added to the economy every year; the government reckoned that could rise to between £191bn and £274bn a year if a programme of building created new homes and linked up towns by rail and motorway.” The Economist 20/7/2022

So the figure is actually £274bn -£111bn = £163bn for the whole area between Oxford and Cambridge inclusive, not just Cambridge. Which just happens to be the same figure as is quoted in the “Transformational” scenario of the National Infrastructure Commissions (NIC) report “Partnering for Prosperity” on the subject of the OxCam Arc.

Whoever wrote the article in The Economist clearly does not want to mention the OxCam Arc because they know that the government side-lined that project in favour of levelling up back in February 2022.

This NIC report is in turn based on work from Cambridge Econometrics which was analysed by Oxford Professor David Rogers as shown:

Prof. David Rogers analysis of Cambridge Econometrics Report underlying Partnering for Prosperity Report 6/5/2021

The part of the £163bn GVA attributable to transport and agglomeration is only 9.2% of the total. EWR Co. need to tell us what tiny fraction of that they think EWR will contribute – if the OxCam Arc Transformational scenario were adopted and they can entice a significant number of people to actually use their EWR.

EWRCo.’s article is probably overstating the benefit of building the railway by at least two orders of magnitude. Even that assumes that the OxCam Arc transformational scenario is actually built.

The same article from EWRCo. goes on, implicitly accepting that car owners may prefer not to use their EWR. More broadly, there are a variety of reasons why owning a car is not an option for many people. Perhaps the purchase, maintenance and running costs of a car are just too much, their homes do not have access to parking, they have physical limitations which don’t allow them to drive, or they are prioritising sustainability for themselves and their families.”

One question – how many of these highly-paid transformational scenario biotech workers are not going to be able to afford to run a car?

If you are reading this from EWRCo. and you can understand the issues pointed out, then I suggest you need to submit a correction to the Cambridge Independent or risk losing credibility.


EWRCo. Drop In Event Haslingfield 9th Sept 2022 *** POSTPONED ***

news Route Alignments

Outstanding Information Requests to EWRCo. August 2022 Update

File Containing Reasons for EWRCo. Chosen Approach To Cambridge and the Business Case.

The previous version of this saga was provided in this post back in February 2022. Here is an update.


During the EWRCo. 2021 consultation, we wanted to understand the fundamentals of how EWRCo. had arrived at their proposed approach to Cambridge. If an approach that required a Great Wall to be built through our villages, severing communities etc. was the best option, then so be it, at least we would understand why that was so. We have the same issues with the business case, but the FOIs for that are another story.

Previous experience with freedom of information requests indicated that we needed the request to be carefully written as any mistake might be used by EWR Co.’s legal team as a reason not to release the information. The Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations contain many exceptions and no doubt for good reasons. We had also noted that EWRCo. tended to refuse requests that other public bodies had accepted. This was in cases where people had asked EWRCo. and another public body for the same information.

We engaged our lawyers at Leigh Day to write a limited FOI request for the most important information. Separately we sent a less formal letter asking for information that did not fit the criteria for the Leigh Day letter. Leigh Day were asking for information already referred to in the 2021 consultation, but not provided.  As always EWRCo. waited the full 20 working days before responding to Leigh Day. They then threw the book at us. They went through all the requests CA had made and bundled that with the Leigh Day Letter. They worked out exactly how many hours they had spent responding to our requests. We would view that as time spent providing information that should have been available in the first place. Noting the association between CA and local parish councils, they even went through parish council minutes looking for statements they felt were unreasonable.

In their lengthy refusal letter, the request was labelled “manifestly unreasonable” and “vexatious”. We were a bit surprised, since all we were doing was asking for information that they must have had to support their 2021 consultation and preferred approach to Cambridge. They also accused us of deliberately timing the letter to land when they were busy with the consultation.

Maybe they were a bit stressed. Maybe their supporting information was not all that it should have been. After all who worries about documents that are never going to be published.

We then asked Leigh Day to write an appeal letter for an internal review, explaining in legal terms why the request should be answered including case law supporting that (especially the Dransfield case on vexatious requests).

To their credit EWR asked another senior member of staff to look at the case, he was an Engineer rather than a lawyer. In any event when the pressure of the consultation was over and they had time to look again at our request … they decided to stick with the decision not to disclose and for the same reasons as before. It was still in their view manifestly unreasonable and vexatious.

At this point we decided to refer the matter to the information commissioner’s office (ICO) along with another letter from Leigh Day explaining legally why the request should have been accepted. The ICO accepted that there was a case to answer but did not have anyone available to properly look at it. 

Update since February 2022

Time passed and we published a post on this blog setting out the information we had requested and our experience up to that point in getting it.  As a result of that, local MP Anthony Browne took up the case and wrote words to the effect that whatever issues EWRCo. had with Cambridge Approaches, he would like to see the answer to those questions.

EWRCo. refused that request as well on the grounds that the matter was now with the ICO. Clearly, it’s not about who asks for the information or when.

I note that the recent Lib Dem Statement on EWR, read out at the last SCDC meeting and kindly copied to us by Cllr Bridget Smith, contains the following paragraph.

EWR is a Government scheme being delivered by a private company resulting in poor accountability and little transparency. It has been an enormous frustration that government has kept residents completely in dark for years now about their intentions. This is a pitiful way of delivering a major piece of public transport infrastructure.

It seems that locally at least, there is some crossparty agreement on EWRCo.’s lack of transparency.

Months later and about a year after the original FOI request, the ICO looked at the case. They started by asking us if we still wanted the information. We did. They also asked EWRCo. if they would now provide it. They would not.

Time passed and eventually the Information Commissioner ruled that EWRCo. could not use the argument that the request was vexatious etc and they should respond again within a certain number of days without using that exemption.

We waited, were EWRCo., actually going to supply the information? 

Well, the latest news is that EWRCo. have appealed the Information Commissioner’s decision, so the saga continues and we will provide evidence to the tribunal next month.

Stay tuned for the next gripping instalment.

Business Case news

Secretary of State for Transport Wants to Cut EWR Tranches 2 and 3

Have your say in person 19th July 2pm-8pm Haslingfield Village Hall

Grant Shapps was interviewed on LBC on the 11th July 2022. Here is a transcript of the dialogue.

Iain Dale: “What would you cut from your transport budget?”

Grant Shapps: “I would take East West Rail and I would remove..”

Iain Dale: “Why haven’t you done it already?”

Grant Shapps: “Well, I haven’t had the opportunity”

Iain Dale: “You are the Transport Secretary you could have easily done it already, you could have gone to Rishi Sunak and said I know you want to cut spending here’s one way you could do that.”

Grant Shapps: “I have done that in other ways, but you have just asked what I would do as Prime Minister and I am telling you. I would cut East West Rail on what’s called two and three so there’s the second and third tranches of it and save 3 to 5 million pounds straight away.”

The interview is here and the part on EWR starts around 11 minutes into the recording.

Grant Shapps pulled out of the PM leadership race the following day, but his intention is now clear.  We are left with the question what is keeping the EWR Construction Stage two and three proposals afloat?

Yes, he meant billion not million. Yes, it must be tough on the staff at EWR Co. to hear their main sponsor saying this. It’s also tough on the thousands of residents blighted by this railway year after year with no end in sight and no meaningful changes or answers from EWR Co. in response to our many objections and questions. It’s also really tough on the taxpayers if they have to fund a project without a decent business case.

How long can this bizarre limbo continue? EWR Co. is full steam ahead on the ground and the transport secretary wants to cancel construction stages 2 and 3.

Meanwhile, after the EWR Co. Cambridge drop-in their spokesperson Hannah Staunton was interviewed on Look East on the 29th June. Here is a transcript of that one.

Look East: “Post pandemic, does the business case still stack up?”

Hannah Staunton: “Absolutely, so we know that, I think the latest research is saying that the current rail use levels are 90% of what they were before the pandemic and the need case for good, decent east west public transport in this area has always been incredibly strong. I don’t really see the case weakening for East West Rail if anything it’s sort of getting stronger.”

Did the business case for EWR always stack up before the pandemic? (If so, why was the Varsity Line cut in the 60s?) Why is she talking about a need case, when the question was about the business case? There are plenty of need cases for many things which don’t have a business case.

Pre-pandemic, UK railways needed an annual subsidy of £6.5 billion. The EWR has no big cities along the route and interchange times will make it less attractive for London commuters and long-distance routes. Even with today’s high rail fares, it will need a larger than average subsidy. Furthermore, with no level crossings allowed, the construction costs are ludicrously high[i], not to mention the huge environmental and human impact, the latter already being felt.

The lack of effective co-ordination with other local transport and housing schemes mean first and last mile penalties will reduce the number of passengers especially over shorter journeys and that is exactly where the most demand might be.

As for the business case getting better. The published outline business case for the EWR western section makes frequent reference to the foundation document of the OxCam ARC. “Partnering for Prosperity”. Michael Gove kicked that into the long grass in February by not mentioning it in the levelling up white paper and again last month at the levelling up select committee.

If the EWR needs a subsidy, who benefits? Investors, landowners and property developers selling land around new stations at hope value? Subsidising the fares of superstar biotech workers off to meetings in Oxford? Subsidising weekends away for people that can afford to live in central Cambridge? If it’s about commuting to the science parks around Cambridge there are much cheaper and more flexible local transport schemes for that. Just about anything is cheaper than EWR.

If the local property developers and other companies that signed the 22nd June letter to Grant Shapps demanding that the EWR be funded in full believe there is a good case for the railway, why don’t they fund it in full? Just £200 million from each signatory would do it and think of the return on investment.

At a time when people are choosing between eating and heating, the time for EWR Co. telling us is over, they need to show us the business case. Publish a well-substantiated positive, business case or cancel it and reduce this unnecessary and seemingly never-ending blight on the area.

[i] Ferrovial’s UK construction director was interviewed by the New Civil Engineer, for their 12th July 2022 edition. He stated that HS2 was estimated to cost £100 million per km and will actually cost £200 million per km, the average achieved cost of similar projects in Europe is £32 million per km. Ferrovial have been involved in both. It’s 50km from Bedford to Cambridge, the EWRCo. Jan 2020 Option report estimated a capital cost of £3.2 billion in 2010 money. Allowing for inflation since then of 36% that would be £4.3billion today leading to an estimate of £87million per km. Similar to the HS2 estimate.


Briefing Note for EWR Drop In – Rescheduled for 12 October 2022

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 Methodist Church on Wednesday 12th October 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.


  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.