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Let’s Restart the Conversation

Sunset over the River Cam (Photo: Doug Thompson)

This post has been updated (19/10/2020) to include the details of the questions and answers from this session in spreadsheet form. The spreadsheet below shows the questions asked by the CA working group and representatives from parishes in the area (CA oversight group). We show the “substantive” answers the the EWR team sent us by email a few weeks after the event, but also the answers we received to some of the questions from careful notes taken during the meeting. There are some interesting differences, for example on question 14 the verbal answer given in the meeting is much more reassuring than the “substantive” answer after the meeting which completely removes the commitment to restore access to roads and rights of way cut by the railway – what are we to think?

East West Rail reached out to local villages in the Option E search area this week in an effort to re-engage with the parish councils with a video conference for Western Villages on Monday and with Eastern ones on Tuesday (24th and 25th August 2020 respectively). In both cases, after an initial presentation from EWR, the time was given over to Q&A and a discussion of how to work together.

Supported by Harston parish council, in the Tuesday session, Cambridge Approaches’ David Revell was given time to ask several questions. The main speakers from EWR in the Q&A session were Will Gallagher, strategy and Ian Parker, who is responsible for the design and implementation of the railway.

The main points we noted were as follows:

  1. EWR is willing to work with Cambridge Approaches – EWR want to propose how, regular meeting were suggested on our side.
  2. The alignment options inside the Option E search area, planned to be publicised by EWR in January 2021, will allow residents to see how close their houses might beto each option. They will just show the centre line of the alignment option with some indication of the engineering works involved.
  3. EWR confirmed that they are looking at an alignment option involving a cutting south of Haslingfield and pointing out that cuttings create an opportunity to mitigate the effects of noise. The visual impact of such a cutting was raised, but the conservation did not conclude on that point.
  4. Ian Parker said it was very unlikely that a tunnel would be part of the solution. The topography does not warrant it and the cost would be a consideration.
  5. EWR conversations with the MRAO are ongoing. Main issues are obstruction of line of sight of a telescope when pointing at 90 degrees and vibration effects from the railway. Given this is one or a small number of telescopes and the agreement might have a profound effect on the route alignment we asked if there had been any discussion of moving the telescopes. David Revell said that the balance is between the quality of life of around 20,000 residents every hour of every day for the life of the railway and the use of a telescope under limit case conditions. EWR said it had been treated as a constraint, but maybe they should consider that.
  6. Option E was the most expensive option in the Q1 2019 consultation – so why was it selected? EWR said that the costings had “matured” and that Option E had the best business case at the time of the decision which was endorsed by the Secretary of State (for transport i.e. Grant Shapps). We have asked for a copy of the business plan at the time of sign off.
  7. EWR are looking at routes crossing the Cambridge to King’s Cross line, because they see benefits in service level from doing so.
  8. It is almost certain that the route from Shepreth Junction into Cambridge will require an additional two tracks to the existing two tracks. If the EWR railway joins further south than that then they are looking at whether to increase the number of tracks.
  9. The EWR is unlikely to directly affect the Foxton level crossing.
  10. EWR have an obligation to maintain access on roads and rights of way that are crossed by the new railway. They are not keen to introduce new level crossing because of national policy on that.
  11. EWR will perform baseline environmental noise measurements, but this has not yet been done.
  12. The Option E decision is the preferred route option endorsed by the Secretary of State for Transport. EWR will continue to back-check the business case in the light of new information and will review the decision if something changes.
  13. EWR confirmed that there are alignment options in the area between the two mainlines (Little Shelford area).
  14. EWR explained the criteria for assessment, Ian Parker talked about 5 parts: Economic, strategic, finances/cost to build and the way it will be built (also called the management case. For the economics they compare cost of construction and operation with the benefits. EWR have been talking to the Department of Communities and Local Government about the potential for (housing) development in the area. They have taken account of plans to develop new settlements in the area and expanding existing settlements; we do take some credence of that in planning the route; it’s important that as many people as possible are able to use the service when it is delivered.
  15. The internal plan in EWR is to be ready for the second consultation in mid-January 2021. However, if the COVID situation at that time still prevents face to face consultation meetings, then it might be delayed for that reason. The Planning Application (DCO) is likely to be made in the middle of 2022, but they are looking at accelerate that so as to minimise the time of uncertainty.
  16. Although Cambridge Approaches were not present, we heard that on the Monday session EWR proposed that the last station to the west before Cambridge south would be south of Cambourne towards Caxton. Several speakers said they wanted it to the north of Cambourne.

4 replies on “Let’s Restart the Conversation”

Thank you for this informative and helpful update.

The beaming to East (90 deg) issue suggests that the telescope would be at less than 1 degree elevation, perhaps. The amount of general noise, Electromagnetic and Warm Body Radiation, trees buildings etc, emit noise levels that would be such to render the telescope ineffective, the presence of overhead lines and trains would not change these levels. Consider this. the M11 passes the 90 deg point now and has done for many years.

We have quickly got to the nub of the matter. Cambridge University will need to re-consider, what is now out of date planning constraint and get real. 20,000 residents mentioned, hopefully they will have something to say about this.

Have I understood this correctly? At present there is no proposal for a station (even a halt say) on the A603 for Haslingfield, Barton and Harlton etc.
Completely unacceptable and quite ridiculous, no benefits at all to local villages. We will still have to travel by car to the park and rides, I doubt that the proposed Metro will ever come Haslingfield way (if it even ever gets built that is).
No wonder there is little interest locally, no point is there? This is turning into yet another mess up for Cambridgeshire transport to add to all the others!

Many years ago at an MRAO open day, we were told that due to its non ideal location close to roads, urban development and consequent interference from surrounding electromagnetic noise the MRAO site was now only useful for teaching and some initial development projects. If that was, and remains, true then surely that bird has already flown and should not receive significant weighting in these considerations.

There is a ‘Consultation’ report on the EWR Company website, from the 2019 consultation, it is worth a read just to pick up on the alarming lack of facts, data and omissions. Only 7000 people responded in total, of which, only one third stated their preferred option was Option E, it is unclear how many of those responding actually lived in South Cambs. There was next to nothing cited re: environmental impact for Option E and the report states that it is the best option for environmental considerations.

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