Iwrote recently about the situation regarding the Oxford to Ipswich East West Rail link.We are hosting a webinar on this subject especially for those to the east of Cambridge. This webinar will be specifically about the effect that the new rail route will have on the Cambridge to Newmarket corridor area.Whilst we understand that it might seem a fairly benign development, and indeed more frequent train services are to be welcomed, the railway line will dramatically affect the corridor. The webinar will focus on the effects that the new rail route will have, how you can find out more and on the alternatives available.For those for who have not been following events, we will also give some history of the project, and try to demystify the way that it has evolved since inception back in 1997. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions as well.The webinar will be on Tuesday 16th March at 7pm. You can use the link below, or visit the Cambridge Approaches website and register from there.
You are invited to a Zoom meeting. When: Mar 16, 2021 07:00 PM Greenwich Mean Time Register in advance for this meeting:
“However, we are seeking views through this consultation on whether we are right to focus on routes that approach Cambridge from the south. Of the five route options that are being taken forward for consultation, Routes B and E could alternatively approach Cambridge from the north if new information is provided that suggests this would be better than approaching Cambridge from the south.”
The 2019 EWR Co. consultation form asked for views on five route options all approaching Cambridge from the south. In addition, they asked “Do you agree that EWR Co are right to prioritise route options that approach Cambridge from the south rather than from the north?”
EWR Co. presented statistics on the answer to this leading question in January 2020. A slight majority disagreed (37% vs 35%). This is hardly a sign that EWR Co. have got it right.
We decided to probe a bit further into the consultation responses.
Northern Parishes not Consulted
We found that parishes to the north of Cambridge and the A428 were not even consulted about a northern approach. We know this because the 2020 Public Feedback Report lists the prescribed consultees and does not include these parishes – see Appendix 2a starting on p.8. Furthermore, no maps of the potential northern approach were presented in the consultation. This hardly facilitates EWR Co.’s request for new information about a northern approach to be provided by the consultees. Where is the new information going to come from if you don’t actually consult to the north? and shouldn’t EWR Co. have had a more detailed look at the northern approach themselves and presented the information to the public in an impartial way rather than relying on the public to do their own research? There was certainly no parity here compared with the consultation on the approaches to the south.
“In answer to your comment around the various requests you have received from constituents for a consultation to be held on whether East West Rail should approach from the south or the north, please let me clarify that this point has been to a full public consultation as part of our first non-statutory consultation held between 28 January and March 11 2019.” (Our emphasis).
Are EWR Co. attempting rewrite history here?
How well were People in the Option E Area Consulted?
There were no consultation meetings held in the Option E area in between Cambourne and Cambridge. Cambridge Approaches can attest that the level of awareness of the consultation among the general public in this area in the second half of 2020 was very low – our leaflet and webinars were the first that many people had heard of it. Shockingly, most of the few that were aware heard about it through survey requests from EWR Co’s agents, Ardent.
Most of the discussion during the consultation centred on routes through Bassingbourn rather than Cambourne.
Maybe it was different in Cambourne and further west, but judging from recent activity in Option E parishes north of Bedford, they were in the dark as well. For example, the village of Ravensden is bang in the line of Option E, but does not appear in the list of statutory consultees. Why is that?
Parish Council Responses
Perhaps the best proxy we have for public opinion on the route options at the time of the 2019 consultation comes from the parish council responses that were sent in.
EWR Co. listed 70 parish councils as prescribed consultees and a year later they published the responses from 41 of these councils here (starting on page 63). Figure 2 shows a map of which parish councils responded. Perhaps one of the more surprising things on the map is the lack of response from Great Shelford and surrounding parishes which EWR Co knew (because they said so on p. 20 of their consultation document) would be affected by any route option chosen. Despite the parish being listed as a prescribed consultee, the parish clerk to Great Shelford PC did not receive a letter notifying the parish council of the consultation.
In the consultation, the parish councils were faced with a choice between route options A to E. This choice involved deciding on at least three issues:
The route out of Bedford south (A, B, C) or north (D, E)
Bassingbourn (A, C, D) or Cambourne (B, E) station as the last stop before Cambridge
Cambridge approached from the south (A, B, C, D, E) or the north (-)
We have been through the response letters sent in by parish councils. We first looked at whether they supported a northern approach into Cambridge or whether they at least thought there should be a proper consultation about it. Then, we counted the parishes that responded but did not express a preference because they (very understandably) felt that the consultation did not provide enough information.
Finally, we counted the parishes preferring a route through Bassingbourn (routes A, C, D) and separately through Cambourne (routes B, E). In doing this, we noted that only one parish east of Cambourne (based on the dotted black line in Figure 2) supported a southern option with a station at Cambourne.
Figure 3 shows the results.
Hardly a resounding endorsement of option E with a southern approach to Cambridge.
The Elephant in the Room
Figure 3 shows that the largest proportion of parish council responses (54%) either expressed a preference for a northern approach to Cambridge or at least felt there should be a proper consultation about it. This was not even a consultation option, but it was the most common response.
That is the elephant in the room which EWR Co. ignored in choosing their preferred route option (and continue to ignore).
They just presented option E as the most popular choice and re-stated their reasons for not following the northern approach in a slightly longer form than they did at the time of the consultation.
Yes, parish councils were influenced by the campaign of CBRR. But that’s because CBRR were making, and continue to make, good arguments for their northern approach to Cambridge.
The next most common response from parishes (17%) was to say that the consultation did not provide enough information to express a preference.
So nearly three quarters of the responses did not support any of the southern options A to E. Shouldn’t that tell EWR Co. that they need to think hard about the next step in the consultation process?
In recent correspondence with EWR Co. we were informed that they intend to present more analysis of the northern approach to Cambridge in their next consultation as they consult on detailed route alignments in the option E area. It seems that they have not listened to the feedback from the parishes at all.
There was a meeting of the Cambridge Approaches oversight group of parish councils on the 11th February 2021. We discussed the concept of sending a joint letter to the rail minister and transport secretary with the same text as the petition. No one spoke against the idea. The letter was subsequently ratified by parish councils and the resulting letter was sent to Chris Heaton-Harris and Grant Shapps on the 23rd February 2021. Click download to see the letter and its signatories from Cambourne town council to Trumpington resident’s association.
If you agree that we need a fair consultation on an approach to Cambridge north please sign the petition.
EWR Co. say there was a full consultation on this in 2019 and remind us that legally they didn’t have to do a consultation at all. The message from EWR Co.analysis of the consultation results is that option E is popular.
Was the 2019 consultation a fair consultation on a northern approach to Cambridge? Well …
parishes north of the A428 were not consulted
the northern approach was presented in the context of (flawed) reasons why it should not be adopted
very few people were aware of the consultation in the option E area and highly affected parishes such as The Shelfords were not consulted.
there were no consultation meetings in the option E area between Cambourne and Gt. Shelford
results on the approach to Cambridge were mixed up with the Cambourne vs Bassingbourn station issue.
We intend to come back to the consultation results and the popularity of Option E in the 2019 consultation in a future post.
The petition calling for a fair consultation has now passed 7000 signatures which is the same as the total number of people that responded to the EWR Co. 2019 consultation with any view.
As the CBRR petition passes 6400, pressure is increasing on EWR Co. to openly review the northern approach to Cambridge. They do seem to be uniting opinion in many parts of South Cambridgeshire that this north south consultation needs to happen. Here is a survey of some recent news on this.
Anthony Browne MP
Anthony Brown MP published this letter to residents on Friday 5th February 2021. Note in particular this paragraph.
“I have heard the arguments in favour of the northern approach option and find them persuasive. I certainly think that it warrants full consideration, and that the public should have a say on this option. I cannot say whether a northern or southern approach will be best for EWR. That is a decision that must be made by EWR depending on the evidence, detailed scoping work and outcome of public consultations. My aim is to ensure that both the northern and southern options are properly considered and consulted on. This will not only ensure that the best decision can be made, but also that the public can have confidence in the process. “
CA are currently working with Anthony Browne’s office on this common objective.
BCN Wildlife Trust
On the 9th February 2021, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust (BCN WT) re-affirmed its support for a northern approach to Cambridge here. They are still asking why a Strategic Environmental Assessment has never been performed (beyond the trite and bizarre reason that EWR Co. do not consider themselves under a legal obligation to do so because they have no programme or plan).
The result of this omission is that while the BCN WT, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and even Natural England are all indicated in their consultation responses that a northern route would be better for the environment, EWR Co. are asserting with little or no evidence that Option E is better.
Is this a good way to spend £6.5billion of taxpayers money? Cambridge deserves to be treated better than this.
We are rather hoping that when the petition is circulated to the 34,000 BCN WT members, then some more people will become aware of the issue and sign it.
Cambourne Town Council
At a recent meeting of some northern parishes in Anthony Browne’s constituency, the chairman, Joe O’Dwyer, affirmed his support for an EWR route into Cambridge North. He also reported that the new Programme Delivery Director at EWR Co. had said “there were no technical or cost reasons not to approach Cambridge from the north”. This is a very sensible statement.
But it is rather in contrast to the now rather discredited rebuttal of the CBRR route in §16 of EWR Co.s Route Option Report. This is the report that talks about trains having to turn around in Cambridge and additional costs. Both claims have been dismissed on this blog and elsewhere more than once and many times to EWR Co. for a long time, but they don’t change the record.
Trouble in Bedford
The good people of Bedford have successfully petitioned their council to debate the route of EWR. Like us they have realised the possibility of freight trains rumbling through central Bedford at night and are not happy at the prospect. Here is a report on the debate held there earlier in the week. They have also noticed that while Option E was the most expensive at the time of the 2019 consultation, it became the second cheapest in the 2020 Route Option Report. Maybe they have been reading this post.
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.
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.
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.