Categories
Route Alignments

Rebuttal of Appendix F

The Northern Approach to Cambridge in the EWR Co. 2021 Consultation

Figure 1 Cambridge Approaches as set out by EWR Co.

In the light of their emerging preference for a route with a station to the north of Cambourne, EWR Co. have correctly decided to reconsider the northern approach to Cambridge. Their high-level assessment of the northern approach is presented in Appendix F of the Technical Document from page 44 onwards. In this post we focus on the top-level points paragraph-by paragraph that they make in section 1 of Appendix F. The EWR Co. text is repeated in italics for convenience.

1.1.1 This appendix reviews the potential for EWR to approach Cambridge using a northern alignment between Cambourne and Cambridge via Milton. EWR Co has considered this route in order to verify the decision taken to prefer Route Option E, which approaches Cambridge from the south. This is necessary because route alignments in Section E might serve a station to the north of Cambourne. Such a station could be broadly equidistant by rail from Cambridge station, serving which is an objective for EWR. This appendix considers whether a northern route into Cambridge could satisfy the objectives for the EWR project and the extent to which a northern route compares with the southern alignments considered in Section E, F and G of the Technical Report. 

EWR Co. correctly say that a station at Cambourne North would be broadly equidistant from Cambridge Station with a southern route or a northern route. However, we know that Cambridge is not intended to be the final stop for EWR services; the plan is that it will extend to Norwich via Ely and Ipswich via the Cambridge to Newmarket line.  

EWR Co. do not insist that passenger trains via Bletchley have to go in and out of Milton Keynes, nor do passenger trains from Bicester to Winslow have to go in and out of Aylesbury.  In the same way, passenger trains between Cambourne and Waterbeach do not all have to go in and out of Cambridge. Taking the northern approach the Cambourne Waterbeach link is 12 km shorter than going via the southern route and the three large new towns to the north and west of Cambridge become well connected. 

1.1.2.  The approach to considering this that EWR Co has taken is first to consider if a change in circumstances that could affect the decision not to prioritise northern routes into Cambridge has taken place. It has concluded that routeing via a Cambourne North station is such a change. It has then looked at other new and more detailed factual information available to it in order to establish if the decision would be different had that information been known at the time. To do this, EWR Co has considered a northern route from Cambourne North. 

Cambridge Approaches (CA) have been considering this issue for several months and have used broadly the same southern approach that EWR Co. are now proposing for their preferred alignment 9 in their comparisons. The CA comparisons are presented here and here.

1.1.3.  The selection of a preferred route option in 2020 following the previous public consultation was based on an assessment of how the various options performed against a combination of fifteen Assessment Factors, which included transport user benefits as well as capital and operating costs, and against the overall programme objectives for EWR. The decision to enter Cambridge from the south was based on engineering, operational, economic, and environmental reasons. This appendix considers how a route approaching Cambridge from the north would perform in relation to the same topics. 

The methodology used by EWRCo. in their previous assessment is set out in §5.4 and §5.21 of their Preferred Route Option Report. It is clearly not an exact science, however among the “second set” factors listed in §5.21 and still not correctly addressed in this report are: 

  1. “Short distance passenger services and connectivity to support commuting into key employment hubs (current and future)”
  2. “Consistency with plans for the location of local settlements”
  3. “Satisfying existing and future freight demand (as anticipated by the freight industry) where affordable.”

We make no comment about whether these factors were important for choosing between options A to E, but they are definitely important when choosing the route into Cambridge to the north or south.

There are significant new towns to the north, and a development void to the south. Freight can bypass Cambridge to the north but will have high residential impact to the south. The local transport services to the north would be greatly helped by a northern approach.

1.1.4 In engineering terms, a northern route from Cambourne to Cambridge is feasible, although it would be complex and expensive to consent, construct and operate. A northern route would cross the newly upgraded A14 trunk road to the west of Girton, which at this location is an eight-lane dual carriageway. This would therefore require a substantial bridge structure. The prevailing low-lying land levels mean that this structure would be a prominent feature in the surrounding landscape. 

The idea at the railway would cross the A14 here with a bridge is not the only option. It is surprising that EWR Co. do not mention CBRR’s notes on the preliminary railway alignment.  They would have found that under Map 6 it states “East of the station it leaves the A421/A428 alignment and drops steadily while heading north east to the Dry Drayton and passing below the A14 near the Cambridge Crematorium. By crossing below the A14 the impact on the crematorium will be reduced”. The notes have been available on the CBRR website for years and the impressive CVs of the consulting engineer designers of this route are given at the end of the document. They have designed railways around the world.

It is not only the impact on the crematorium that will be reduced, but also the visual impact on the whole area. In EWRCo.’s statement on mitigating noise and vibration we find the following statement “Sometimes we will need to elevate the track, for instance when trains intersect with roads and cross land in a floodplain. However, where it’s practicable we will consider building the track low in the landscape.”

CBRR based their proposal on the design by one of their engineers which was used on HS1 at the tunnel portal approach structure near Ripple Lane, west of Dagenham: with the trench deep enough, roads crossing the railway need climb no higher than the top of the trench’s flood wall.  CBRR are not the only people proposing, or indeed using, trench railways as a solution for low environmental impact railways including those crossing in flood plains. Consider for example the section of this high-speed railway from Brussels to Amsterdam where the track is in a trench before passing under a tidal river – see Figure 2. It is not clear why EWRCo. have not considered this approach. There are many examples around the world; the San Gabriel trench railway recently won a design award in California. We don’t think that the currently proposed Great Wall is likely to win many design awards. 

Figure 2 Dordtsche Kil Section of the High Speed line near Amsterdam. Notice the drainage ditches on either side of the line. The tunnel is under a tidal river. No problem with trench railways in flood plains for the Dutch.

1.1.5.  An additional station could be provided to the near Oakington, south-east of Northstowe, but this area is low-lying and forms part of a floodplain so the station and its approaches would necessarily be elevated. A junction with the existing West Anglia Main Line (WAML) would be located north of Milton and this too sits in a floodplain. This location was also granted outline planning permission for the proposed Cambridge Sports lake. 

Firstly, only 700 of the planned 10,000 houses in Northstowe have been built. These additional houses will bring the development right up to Oakington. Why don’t EWR Co. know this?  Why are they talking about people walking for an hour to get to the station? The new town of Northstowe will be the largest new town in England since Milton Keynes and current plans will make it bigger than Ely. It is also likely that in future local plans Northstowe will grow further. The Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM) is a possible solution (to supplement the existing, at capacity, guided busway), but it currently lacks funding. Why are EWR Co. referring to the County Council plans to develop the busway – isn’t this now the responsibility of the Combined authority? Why don’t EWR Co. know this?

Secondly, trench railways work in flood plains. Going back to the notes produced by CBRR we find the following under Maps 7 & 8: 

“North-east of the A14 the line passes to the south-east of Oakington, where a station is proposed to serve Oakington and Northstowe. It then has to cross the fens for about 9km before joining the Cambridge – Ely line. For the fen crossing it is proposed to once again lower the alignment to below existing ground level and contain the line in a structural trench with walls up to flood protection level. This allows it to pass below the Oakington – Girton road, the guided busway, B1049 north of Histon, Landbeach Road, and the A10 north of Milton. The advantages of keeping the line low are reduced visual impact, the ease of building over-bridges, and the avoidance of new embankments which would cause continuing settlement for years for years after construction. After crossing the A10 the line bends to the south and rises to the level of the main Cambridge – Ely line which it joins once at the correct level. The line continues south south-west to Cambridge North Station.”

So, the station would not need to be elevated at Oakington. 

Thirdly, why do EWR Co pay such attention to the proposed sporting lake at Milton? It did not have planning permission or funding at the time it was mentioned in Chapter 16 of the Preferred Route Option Report in January 2020. It does not have either now. If it did get planning permission then the railway could slide underneath it in a trench as proposed by CBRR in Map 8b of their notes on the preliminary railway assessment.

1.1.6.  The route into Cambridge would be via the WAML, a two-track line which would need to be upgraded to a four-track line to accommodate the additional EWR services. The WAML corridor between Milton and Cambridge is much more constrained than a southern approach with properties against the railway boundary and multiple highway crossings with adjacent properties. This would necessarily require demolition of residential and commercial property and the widening or replacement of several substantial structures, including the A14 bridge at Milton, and a new bridge over the River Cam. Cambridge North station would also need to be modified to accommodate the additional lines. In addition, the road bridges carrying the A1303 Newmarket Road, Coldhams Lane and Mill Road in Cambridge would all need to be replaced and widened to accommodate the extra tracks. 

EWR Co. assert that the WAML would need to be 4-tracked. This would clearly be a significant project, comparable in scale to the 4-tracking required from Shepreth Branch Junction to Cambridge Station with the southern approach. But where is the evidence that the 4-tracking is required?

It is up to EWRCo. to fully present their justification of this important assertion. In doing so they should consider the following:

  1. Is the opportunity being missed to rationalise the many independent rail services that will all be passing between Cambridge South, Cambridge and Cambridge North stations in 2030, especially in the light of the demise of rail franchises? We count 7 different passenger services at the moment, without EWR Co.
  2. Britain is already changing from line-side signalling to in-cab signalling. This allows signallers to talk to trains continuously rather than only at fixed points. This will vastly improve line capacity. Thameslink through central London was planned to allow 24 trains per hour rather than the usual rule of thumb of 10 trains per hour. EWR Co. are specifying this in cab signalling for their new trains.
  3. Does the benefit of the 4 tph clock-face timetable really outweigh the costs of creating more tracks through Cambridge [and presumably other cities along the EWR]? If this feature triggers 4-tracking,EWR Co. should consider waiting for better signalling before introducing it.
  4. With a southern approach to Cambridge and EWR Co.’s current assumptions about 4-tracking to the north of Cambridge, will the 4-tracking from Cambridge to Milton not be necessary anyway for extending EWR’s services further east – or is this considered out of scope? That would be short sighted and would not meet the Sponsor’s Requirements (Technical Report Appendix A §1.6)
  5. Given the uncertainties on passenger demand does it make sense to commit to extra tracks through Cambridge for this project? Anthony Browne MP expects that post Covid, people will continue to work at home 2 days per week leading to a 40% reduction in passenger demand long-term.
  6. Much play is made of a detailed assessment of the property acquisitions that would be needed with the “NA2” section into Cambridge.  Although the southern approach is EWR Co.’s preferred route, the assessment does not go into as much detail about the property acquisitions it needs or might need.  It does not, for example, explain what the property acquisition impact might be of EWR Co’s current conclusion that the line does not need additional tracks between the new Harston Junction and the existing Shepreth Junction proves “on further investigation in coming design phases” (paragraph 11.1.2 Technical Report) to be incorrect.  This gives the consultee a biased impression in favour the southern approach. 
  7. A similar argument can be made as above for possible bridge work for 4-tracking the Shepreth Branch line on a southern approach. If their future investigation is incorrect, the cost consequences of a possible mistake would be far greater than 4-tracking the NA2 section, with modifications required to bridges including crossings of the M11, the Cam, the Newton Road, the B1368, the road between Little Shelford and Hauxton and the A1301 in Great Shelford.
  8. The pre-Covid 2018 baseline rail traffic used in the assessment in Appendix F shows that there is a lot less traffic to the north of Cambridge than to the south. There is a major cost saving opportunity available for this section if NA2 were not to require 4-tracking.
  9. Given the overloaded nature of Cambridge Station identified above and the need to integrate with local transport schemes EWR Co. should consider having some passengers changing at Cambridge North or South onto existing services (or the CAM, which is proposing to link the three railway stations) rather than adding to the congestion at Cambridge Station. If London allowed all trains to pass directly through or go straight into the centre, the central district would be nothing but railways. It is reported that nearly 12 million passengers per year use Cambridge Station (with over half a million interchanges) while less than 1 million use Cambridge North (with less than 2,000 interchanges). Is the solution really to expand Cambridge Station?
  10. If EWR does not take a northern approach, neither the CAM nor EWR is proposing to link Cambourne or towns west of it directly to the northern part of Cambridge.  This seems a major omission, especially as an improved A428 between Black Cat and Caxton Gibbet) may encourage people to drive this route.
  11. Transport now accounts for 40% of the UK carbon budget and after the coal-fired power stations have been closed down, future carbon targets will press further on transport construction.  Are unnecessary works in 4-tracking Cambridge really justified and when will EWRCo. publish their carbon assessment?

1.1.7.  Economically and operationally, a northern approach to Cambridge does not provide the same level of benefits as a southern approach and is less able to satisfy the overall objectives of EWR. In comparison with services entering Cambridge from the south, which in all our assessments are assumed to call at the new Cambridge South station that is being developed to serve the heart of Cambridge’s internationally significant Life Sciences cluster in the south of the city en route, the Northern approach would be slower and more complicated. This is because, using assumptions common to both scenarios, if the EWR services entered Cambridge from the north they would need to pass through Cambridge station in order to then turn back at the new Cambridge South station, which would need to be modified. 

§1.1.7 contains more assertions without supporting evidence. Figure 4 is a map from a Cambridgeshire County Council prepared in connection with the Greater Cambridge Local Plan showing the many major employment sites around Cambridge. It is clear from the map that there are many more employment areas served by a northerly approach than one from the south. The Addenbrooke’s / Biomedical Campus site is number 26 on the map and, independently of the EWR Co. project, will be served by Network Rail’s Cambridge South Station. Cambridge is blessed with internationally significant companies in its Science Parks near to Cambridge North Station (ask yourself why that station was built before Cambridge South).

If not serving Cambridge South directly is a problem, isn’t not serving Cambridge North directly equally a problem? If EWR does go on to serve Cambridge North – as suggested in §1.1.10 (quoted below) – EWRCo. need to explain why this will not trigger a 4-tracking requirement.

On closer examination the argument in §1.1.7 is not a distinguishing assessment factor.

Figure 4 Major Employment Sites in Greater Cambridge

1.1.8.  Furthermore, services on a northern approach utilising the EWR lines to travel further east to Norwich and Ipswich could not do so without reversing manoeuvres at Cambridge station and without the construction of further infrastructure to enable these onward journeys. This would add time to journeys and increase operational complexity. To travel eastwards from the north, without calling at Cambridge station and therefore avoiding the reversing move, a new railway chord would need to be constructed at Coldham’s Common or Ely. This would not meet the Project Objectives as Cambridge station would not be called at. However, future freight on the Newmarket Line could use the chord to avoid Cambridge station. Furthermore, although the length of railway for a northern route and southern alignments is similar (the northern route is approximately 600m longer) journeys approaching Cambridge station from the north would take longer due to any extra time spent at a stop the new Oakington station for Northstowe station. If this intermediate station is omitted, then journey times would be approximately the same as for services approaching from the south. 

In researching the rail passenger services currently passing through Cambridge to the north we notice that there is an hourly service from Birmingham and another from Norwich. Both of these services terminate at Stansted airport. There is clearly significant demand to get to Stansted and it is reasonable to assume that this market demand would also be there for EWR passengers. With the southern approach, passengers would either have to change at Cambridge [South] to get to Stansted or EWR trains would have to reverse out to get there. This is not the case for a northern approach. Why is this situation materially different from these points about Norwich?

The services provided in the Project Objectives should be demonstrated to prove they meet market demands: rigid control of projects from central government does not have a great track record of producing what customers actually want[1] . EWR Co. should publish more results from their transport model, which we understand to their surprise show that 70% of the demand is for local trips. (see East West Railway Project Update 2 December 2020).

If the demand is mostly local, it is surprising, to say the least, that adding a stop at Northstowe, the largest new town in England since Milton Keynes (and one which only has an already overloaded[2]  guided busway) does not benefit the business case for the railway. A stop a Northstowe would greatly benefit employment throughout Cambridge, allowing people living in more affordable housing to travel easily to their places of work. If it is true, perhaps all stations except Oxford and Cambridge should be removed so that the projected 18,000 end-to-end journeys per year can be served uninterrupted. But that would be less than one person per train. 


While on the subject of Milton Keynes, it is clear that there will be trains between Oxford and Milton Keynes, but not whether there will be trains between Milton Keynes and Cambridge.  It looks as though the link is with Bletchley.  Either that or every train journey between Oxford and Cambridge will reverse from Milton Keynes back to Bletchley. Perhaps EWR Co. could clear that one up.


EWR Co. please publish more of the transport model – and the business case.

1.1.10.  Although stopping at Cambridge North would connect existing and planned employment sites and housing to the route, a northern approach forgoes the opportunity to directly connect the new Cambridge South station, and planned growth around it, to the route with fast, reliable east-west public transport. A southern approach is better aligned with the local and national economic and strategic ambition to support Cambridge’s internationally significant Life Sciences cluster. In addition, it would be possible for services approaching Cambridge from the south to continue beyond Cambridge station and serve Cambridge North if required. 

Please provide a reference to the local and national economic and strategic ambition to support Cambridge’s internationally significant Life Sciences cluster over and above other high-tech sectors in Cambridge. Also, please explain why many of the sites in the Life Sciences cluster that are not located in vicinity of Cambridge South are less important? Consider for example this set of life sciences companies on the Cambridge Science Park.

Of course, it is beneficial for the EWR to serve Cambridge North directly and, as previously mentioned, this would, by EWR Co.’s logic, trigger 4-tracking on the section of the line to the north of Cambridge Station for a southern approach. This problem is a symptom of the lack of effective integration of the EWR project with local transport projects. Rail passengers going to London do not all expect to get directly to the centre of the city without changing to local transport. Cambridge is starting to show the same problems and the solution is not to add more railway tracks and freight trains through the centre.  It is also a result of the fact that EWR Co’s responsibilities end at Cambridge Station and they don’t look beyond that point unless it suits their argument to do so.

This assessment of the economic impact of the railway on the Cambridge economy might also benefit from closer collaboration with the local experts from Greater Cambridge Shared Planning who do not seem to have been involved in this assessment.  And while EWR Co are speaking to them, they might wish to explain why §2.3.10 appears to be trying to pre-empt decisions on the location of housing growth which are a matter for the relevant local authorities not EWR Co.

1.1.11.  A qualitative assessment of capital costs for a northern route has been completed and the extent and complexity of the structures, poor/wet ground conditions between Oakington and Milton, loss of residential and business properties, and modifications to the railway and existing stations are expected to make this solution more expensive than the southern alignments proposed by EWR Co given that the alignment lengths are similar for each approach. 

We find the idea of a qualitative assessment of capital costs an interesting one.  This assessment is based on the unjustified 4-tracking assumptions we have referred to above. Again, if the EWR is trying to get good connectivity to Cambridge then a solution for all three Cambridge stations and onwards to the east is required.

It also utterly fails to address the issue that the Shepreth Branch line would cost significantly more to 4-track than a northern approach if, as previously mentioned, their track demand assumptions are incorrect for this line. Our studies show that leaving 2-tracks on the SBR places severe constraints on the EWR timetable to say the least.

1.1.12.  The considerations above relate primarily to engineering, operations and economics.

Such a the top-level assessment should also include environmental and residential impacts. Why have EWRCo. still not performed a strategic environmental assessment? (Saying that legally you don’t have to is not a defence). This approach will lead only to mitigation of environmental damage rather than avoiding it in the first place.  The barbastelle bat is one of the UK’s rarest mammals. There are only six known maternity sites in England, including the Wimpole and Eversden Woods, and all are designated as SACs.  The Wimpole and Eversden Woods site is the only one of these sites in Cambridgeshire.  Why do EWR Co think that their impact on it can be mitigated?  There is nothing to support this assumption.

1.1.13.  The route that EWR Co has considered is not designed to the same level of detail as the southern alignments. However, the design level is sufficient to enable a comparison to be made. That design is also sufficient for high level environmental comparisons to be made.

Not entirely true. The assessment of the unjustified 4-tracking to the north is explained in considerably more detail (37 pages, pp. 64-101 in Appendix F)  than the extensive 4-tracking required to the south (4 sparse pages, pp.415-418 in the Technical Report) which concludes with the statement in §11.9.8 “preliminary designs for this section of the Project are being developed and will be introduced as part of a further Statutory Consultation in due course.” We can only conclude that this style of presentation is to exaggerate the case for the southern approach beyond what the facts will sustain.

EWR Co’s statements in their ‘high level environmental comparisons’ are riddled with errors. Examples include EWR Co’s assertion that the N approach would be within 500m of built-up areas of Caldecote, Dry Drayton, Hardwick and Horningsea. In fact, it would pass within about 800m of Caldecote and 1300m of Hardwick. While it is within about 450m of Horningsea, that village is already next to the WAML (and future combined track). EWR Co also talk about impacts on Madingley Hall and the American Cemetery. This is totally misleading – Madingley Hall is about 1.3km away and existing trees would prevent views to the path of the CBRR route. The American Cemetery is 2.4km away and the viewpoint faces a different direction to the CBRR route.

1.1.14.  This appendix demonstrates that an alignment approaching Cambridge from the north remains less attractive than a southern approach into the city, reinforcing the previous conclusion that a southern approach to Cambridge should be preferred and the case for the proposals described in Chapters 9, 10 and 11 of this Technical Report. 

We leave it to the reader to decide whether EWR Co. have done this. Needless to say we do not think so.

If you agree that we are entitled a fair consultation on a northern approach in parity with the southern approach please sign the petition. You will be joining 10,000 others in doing so.


Categories
Ecology

East West Rail – How Dare You?

Ah God! to see the branches stir
Across the moon at Grantchester!
To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten
Unforgettable, unforgotten
River-smell, and hear the breeze
Sobbing in the little trees.
Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand
Still guardians of that holy land?
The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream,
The yet unacademic stream?
Is dawn a secret shy and cold
Anadyomene, silver-gold?
And sunset still a golden sea
From Haslingfield to Madingley?
And after, ere the night is born,
Do hares come out about the corn?
Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

taken from “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester” by Rupert Brooke
written in the Cafe des Westens, Berlin, May 1912.

Categories
news

FROM ERMINE STREET TO CHAPEL HILL

(A 1000 YEARS OF HISTORY AND SO MUCH MORE)

Dawn on Easter Sunday 2019 on Chapel Hill

Did you know…

There are many tales passed down through the generations as to the chapel’s origins and proof of its existence is recorded in documents from Bishop Alcock in 1488

He writes of chapel repairs to the ‘Chapel of BVM Whightehill’

Although it is presumed at this time that whighte was referring to the white chalk clunch pits and quarry, the derivation of whighte could be weyte which meant wait. This sounds likely as the hill was an important lookout point over the Saxon settlement.

Rev.E.Conybeare in his ‘History of Cambridgeshire’ written in 1897 describes it as once being a famous place of pilgrimage. The Mare Way or Mary Way ended at the point where 84 churches could be visible from Ely in a sweeping view from Ely across as far as the Dunstable Downs.

It is recorded that the chapel was seen to contain a huge pair of shackles believed to be those with which Lord Scales was kept imprisoned in France in the Battle of Crecy, at the time of King Edward III. They were placed in the chapel in thanks for his escape.

A small roadside cottage known as Chapel Bush stood on the site of the chapel until early in the 20th Century. It can be seen on the Ordnance survey maps from 1887. A bulla of Pope Martin V (1417-1431), a 1 1/2 inch lead disc, was found on the site in 1897. 

It is a tradition of All Saints Church to walk up Chapel Hill on Easter morning to witness the dawn. The vicar leads a prayer and a hymn is sung around a lighted brazier. A flame from the brazier is taken down to the church in a lantern from which the Paschal candle is lit at the Easter morning service.

The experience is deeply moving and a truly ancient link to the past. Chapel Hill, to me personally, is as significant as Avebury or Stonehenge. It is such a spiritual and significant point as the flat area of Cambridge and fenland stretch out before us. For 700 years the church has nestled at the base of the hill where thousands trod on their way to the awe inspiring Ely Cathedral.

The image of a railway cutting slicing through the hill and stretching out over the fields and over the river to Harston is truly appalling. A desecration of this region’s history and the first chalk hill rising out of the flat landscape of Cambridgeshire.

Jennifer Gore, Churchwarden, All Saints Haslingfield

Chapel Hill in the Setting of All Saints Haslingfield
1897 OS map showing Chapel Bush which was the pilgrimage site and the tumulus on neighbouring Money Hill one of 5 barrows up there. The proposed railway cutting will go between them.
Categories
news

Shelford Action Group’s Hustings for the County Council Elections

Dear fellow resident of the Sawston and Shelfords division for the upcoming Cambridgeshire County Council elections,

The Shelfords EWR Action Group is delighted to invite you to a hustings for the above election to hear the candidates answer questions on the recent consultation launched by East West Railway Company.

The event will be held via Zoom at 7pm on Sunday 18th April and will require prior registration.  Please follow this link to register and you will receive an email to join the meeting.

The candidates are as follows:

Conservative                Manas Deb 

Conservative                Dale Hargrove 

Green                          Sophie Berridge 

Green                          Ellie Crane 

Labour                         Tracey Draper 

Labour                         Anand Pillai 

Liberal Democrat         Maria King 

Liberal Democrat         Brian Milnes        

During the hustings, the candidates will be asked in turn six questions (of which they will have prior notification) with 2.5 minutes for each Party to answer.  In the remaining time, the Moderator will pick a small number of relevant questions posed by the attendees in the chat facility to put to the candidates, again with 2.5 minutes to answer per party.

Our division includes Haslingfield, Harston, Newton, Hauxton, Little Shelford and Great Shelford, through which EWR’s preferred route option runs.  The division also includes Stapleford and Sawston, which will also feel the effect of EWR’s plans.  We are certain you will want to hear the candidates thoughts on the plans and what they intend to do, if elected.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Shelfords EWR Action Group

Categories
news

The Great Wall

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China – longer, but not as high or wide as what EWR Co. are proposing.

From the highly skewed A428 dual carriageway bridge near Highfields Caldecote in the west to the huge, grade-separated Hauxton junction in the east, EWR are proposing to build a Great Wall across rural south Cambridgeshire. 

Because the taxpayer is not given a choice on the matter, this 16-kilometre long feature is barely mentioned in the 2021 consultation document, but it does emerge from a study of their long section drawings here and here. Aside from the massive visual impact and the noise, this feature could split communities that have stood for a thousand years. It could disrupt local travel patterns for school children and adults, destroy precious farmland and cause the protected Wimpole Barbastelles to move away.

The loss in local property values is already enormous and EWRCo.’s proposed blight policy will not even scratch the surface in terms of compensation. 

We understand from EWR Co. engineers, that their key design driver is to maintain the speed of the railway. It follows that it needs to be straight and level where possible. This is to serve 100mph trains all the way from Oxford to Cambridge. But the forecasted number of people per train making this trip is only o.7 perhaps rising to 1.9 on average. [18,000 trips/year, 18 x 4 trains / day see 2019 EWR Co. Technical Report §4.11]. Can someone please explain the logic of this? EWR Co. tell us 75% of the traffic will be local and that they are surprised by this. If that’s correct why on earth has it not affected the design criteria? It looks like a symptom of a boondoggle. Please build something to serve the local demand – not a bullet train on a great wall.

Cross-Section of The Great Wall

The Great Wall is of course a railway embankment and we understand that their typical cross-section is as shown in fig.1 below.

Fig.1 Cross Section of The Great Wall – a twin track railway embankment. (Courtesy of Steve Edmondson).

Looking at the long section diagrams linked to above we can see that the embankment height mostly in the range 5-12 metres. So we can expect the width at the base to be around 30 to 50 metres.

Our previous post on farmland impact assumed an 8m width. EWR Co are also reserving land either side of the Great Wall for construction access. We assume that the flatter land to the north of Cambridge would not need such high embankments. EWR Co. might also consider some innovation there by sinking the railway into a trench as proposed by cambedrailroad.org and shown in Fig.2

Fig. 2 Cambedrailroad’s Fen Crossing Proposal. If EWR Co. can’t afford this perhaps they should build something with a business case that can.

Photographer’s Impressions of The Great Wall

We asked a local photographer to create some impressions of what The Great Wall might look like in the section between Little Eversden and Haslingfield. These have been created from very recent photographs combined with railway embankments from elsewhere.

These mockups (figures 3, 5 & 7) are approximate but they do give an impression of what The Great Wall would be like. Also shown are the views from the same locations today (figures 4, 6 & 8).

Fig. 3 View North from the End of Lowfields in Little Eversden.
Fig. 4 View north from the end of Lowfields Little Eversden before The Great Wall
Fig. 5 View East towards Haslingfield from Harlton. We await confirmation that there will be an underpass for access to Haslingfield e.g. for children to get to school. Perhaps through a 50m long dank tunnel.
Fig. 6 View towards Haslingfield from Harlton before The Great Wall
Fig.7 View South West from Wells Close Haslingfield. The Great Wall would actually be more across the picture as it carves into beautiful Chapel Hill.
Fig.8 View from Wells Close Haslingfield towards beautiful Chapel Hill before The Great Wall.

The West Anglia Mainline (WAML) at Clayhithe

Fig. 9 The West Anglia Mainline at Clayhithe very close to the river Cam.

To get a feeling for the likely height of embankments required north of Cambridge here is a view (fig.9) of the existing WAML about 300m from the river Cam. It’s not easy to see but there is actually an embankment there. Notice also that the overhead lines are below tree height thus shielding the view from the houses behind them.

That’s not the end of the impact of this proposal by a long way, but it is enough for this post.

Categories
news

Webinars and Fundraising

Consultation

The second non-statutory consultation from EWRCo. came out on the 31st of March 2021 just before the Easter break. As you may imagine the Cambridge Approaches team has been very busy since then and we are conscious that we have not updated this blog about it. We did make some initial comments in the Cambridge Independent here and on the ITV news. There is plenty of coverage in today’s Cambridge Independent (7th April 2021) and no doubt this will appear on line in due course. Suffice it to say it is far from the fair consultation on a northern route into Cambridge that we are campaigning for.

Harston Area Webinar

We are continuing our series of spring webinars with one for the Harston area. People from other villages are very welcome too. This will be at 7pm on Monday 19th April 2021 when Dr. William Harrold and Cllr. Sebastian Kindersley will present on “the need for a fair consultation on a northern route to Cambridge”.

To register for this webinar please use this link.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Note that our webinar programme is now maintained here.

Meetings Organised by Our MP

Anthony Browne has invited Cambridge Approaches and CBRR to participate in the following public meetings on the subject of East West Rail:

Great Shelford: Tuesday 20th April at 6pm – 7pm

Eversdens, Haslingfield, Harlton, Harston, Hauxton, Little Shelford & Newton: Wednesday 21st April at 6pm – 7.30pm

Bourn, Caxton, Cambourne, Comberton, Toft, Highfields Caldecote, Hardwick, Kingston and Toft: Thursday 29th April at 6pm – 7pm

These meetings will be via ABs Facebook and Youtube pages and details will be provided at www.anthonybrowne.org/east-west-rail

Fundraising

For the last six months Cambridge Approaches, supported by the working group have been looking to challenge EWR’s decision not to consult in parity on a northern approach by way of a judicial review. 

We have instructed expert lawyers, taken advice and have been actively fundraising from parish councils and private donors to kick start that process. 

Legally we may only have a small window in which to challenge EWR and we have to be prompt when doing so. We believe that this could be our window and we have to be able to demonstrate to a judge that we have funds in place to be able to proceed. 

Time is now of the essence 

We currently need substantial donations from residents to reach our target. We aimed to raise £50k from supportive parish councils and a further £30K from concerned residents, we currently need substantial donations from residents to hit this target.

Donations of over £250 can be donated directly to Cambridge Approaches ltd (email info@cambridgeapproaches.org) we have created a not for profit company limited by guarantee to handle donations. Should there be any unused funds donated in this way they can be refunded pro rata, further details can be given with regards to this process. 

Alternatively we also have created a go fund me page where donations of any size are welcomed and will be used towards both our campaign costs (hiring experts to carry out detailed assessments, Royal Mail outs etc)  as well as going towards the judicial review costs. 

Go fund me – https://uk.gofundme.com/f/fund-a-a-judicial-review-for-a-northern-approach?qid=ac602eb72182058bfa5e66eb2a14ef03

Please use your personal networks to raise awareness and to get us to this target. 

We can not let EWRCo ruin our villages, and sever our communities without a fight.

Categories
news

Professor Emeritus David Feldman QC (Hon), FBA joins Cambridge Approaches legal team

The Cambridge Approaches legal team is very privileged to be joined by David Feldman.

David has taught, researched, written about and adjudicated in relation to law, especially constitutional and administrative law and human rights, including historical, comparative and philosophical aspects, for over 45 years. 

He has held many prestigious posts including Legal Adviser, Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Human Rights, 2000-2004, Judge of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2002-2010 (a Vice-President 2006-2009) and Rouse Ball Professor of English Law, University of Cambridge, 2004-2018 (now Emeritus). He is an Academic Associate at 39 Essex Chambers, London and was elected Hon. Bencher at Lincoln’s Inn in 2003, elected FBA in 2006, appointed Hon. Q.C. in 2008 and awarded Hon. LL.D. from the University of Bristol in 2013. 

He is the author of a large number of books, articles, chapters and shorter works on many aspects of public, private and criminal law and procedure, including Civil Liberties and Human Rights in England and Wales 2nd edn (OUP, 2002), (as Ed.) English Public Law 2nd edn (OUP, 2009), and (as Ed.) Law in Politics, Politics in Law (Hart, 2013). 

Categories
Route Alignments

Rebuttal of EWR’s reasons for preferring a southern approach into Cambridge


Background

This post looks at East West Rail Company’s (EWR Co’s) arguments for rejecting a northern approach proposed by CamBedRailRoad (CBRR) and to provide the evidence to rebut their claims.

EWR Co presented their reasons in chapter 16 of the Preferred Route Option Report, issued in January 2020. (Preferred-Route-Option-Report)

They briefly set out the historic development of the approach into Cambridge from the south – it was based on Network Rail’s assessment in 2014 which was never discussed or consulted on with the public. EWR Co state that they have reviewed this decision before the last public consultation and that it ‘appeared to remain sound’.

Chapter 16 goes on to infer that the public supported this approach. Cambridge Approaches have already reviewed this claim in a previous post (CA post – fair consultation) and consider it to be flawed. In essence, EWR Co stated that a third of responses did not express a view, with the other two-thirds being broadly evenly split between agreeing and disagreeing with EWR Co’s decision to prioritise route options that approach Cambridge from the south and so implying that there no significant opposition to it. In fact, Cambridge Approaches more detailed and specific analysis from parish councils (which we took as proxy for public opinion) shows that almost three quarters of these parish councils either expressed a desire for a consultation on a northern approach (54%) or that there was insufficient information (17%) to make a choice.

Before we go on to review EWR Co’s arguments, we note that they have specifically removed the chord (track connection) proposed by CBRR on Coldham’s Common claiming that it:

  • would not serve Cambridge Station (it is not intended to serve Cambridge Station, at least for freight)
  • it would increase the capital cost of the project (yes, marginally, but needs to be assessed against the overall cost of the entire route options which we believe favours a northern approach)
  • it passes through a County Wildlife Site (yes, but again it needs to be balanced against all the other environmental sites of each approach option – a northern approach won convincingly when this was done (CA post – environmental-impact)).

In fact, this chord is essential to enable a connection from the north to connect with the eastern section of EWR without freight having to make a physical reversing move. Removing it implies that they did not understand how the CBRR route would function.

EWR Co have five main ‘selection criteria’ against which they claim all options are assessed. They have assessed the CBRR route against these criteria and use them as arguments for rejecting a northern approach. The criteria are:

  • Benefits for transport users
  • Supporting economic growth
  • Supporting delivery of new homes
  • Costs and overall affordability
  • Environmental impacts and opportunities.

16.19-22 – Benefits for transport users

From EWR Co’s analysis of including the CBRR-proposed stations at Northstowe and Cambridge North into their transport model, their conclusion is that the transport user benefits of a northern approach are £200m greater than a southern approach!

They go on to state that approaching Cambridge from the north would require a reversing move at
Cambridge station for any onward journeys to/from Ipswich, and to/from Norwich and that this would increase journey times. However, EWR Co state in their Technical Report (EWR-Technical-Report)

‘Onwards services to and from the east of Cambridge (for example to and from Norwich and Ipswich) are not currently included in the indicative train service specification for EWR services and are thus not part of EWR Co’s remit.’

We therefore wonder why this scenario is presented as an argument against a northern route. If additional services are included at a later stage, it is equally possible that onward services to Stansted could be included for which the CBRR route would be considerably more suitable than a southern approach. And again, they have removed the chord on Coldham’s Common that would allow freight trains to avoid such a reversing move.

16.23-25 – Supporting economic growth

EWR Co’s own conclusion on this ‘argument’ states:

‘The economic and employment opportunities provided around Cambridge North station and the proposed Cambridge South station are considered to be similar in nature and scale.’

There is, thus, no case to argue.

16.26-27 – Supporting delivery of new homes

EWR Co state in their argument that a northern approach would support the delivery of 10,000 homes that are planned at Northstowe. As this is one of the biggest housing developments in the UK since Milton Keynes, EWR Co seem to agree with us that this is a most convincing argument for a northern approach.

They go on to state that:

responses to the consultation did not identify any additional housing sites that could be supported if EWR were to approach Cambridge from the north’.

Below is schematic produced by CBRR showing existing, proposed and putative housing developments in the area. The black line is CBRR’s indicative route. The size of the circles represents the population of each site. To be fair, some of these sites have only come to light as a result of the publication of the call for sites by South Cambridgeshire District Council and that publication post-dates the option E decision. But this is the ‘new information’ that EWR Co have said they would need to if they were to reconsider the approach into Cambridge.

At a stroke, this contradicts EWR Co’s argument regarding supporting delivery of new homes. The schematic shows:

  • more new housing developments along the CBRR route than along the southern Option E one
  • more developments to the north of the Option E area near Cambourne and so provides justification for a north Cambourne station
  • a void of new housing development sites over the bulk of the Option E area.

Worryingly, EWR Co further state that:

‘Moreover, South Cambridgeshire District Council stated a preference for a route via Cambourne (Route E) that approaches Cambridge from the south.’

In fact, nowhere in SCDC’s response did they explicitly favour a southern approach over a northern approach. They supported Options B and E because they wanted EWR to serve Cambourne rather than Bassingbourn, not because it approached Cambridge from the south. They have highlighted the lack of information which would be required in order to make this decision.

‘Acknowledging the broad nature of this consultation, limited information available and significant uncertainties around growth implications, it is considered that, in principle, routes including Cambourne as a station (B and E) could be preferable to routes including Bassingbourn, for the following reasons:’ [SCDC’s underlining]

This is hardly the support that EWR Co imply.

16.28-31 – Costs and overall affordability

EWR Co consider that the upfront capital costs of the CBRR route is £600m more expensive than a southern approach. Given that the new track lengths may be broadly similar (depending on which southern alignment is chosen) and that a northern approach has about one third the number of road crossings, no river crossings and easier topography, we consider that a northerly approach may be cheaper to build than a southern approach, even allowing for a station at Northstowe.

EWR Co make allowance in their costings for crossing a new rowing lake north of Cambridge. However, the planning application for this rowing lake was withdrawn about 18 months before the EWR Co options report was published. It is therefore not an obstacle to the CBRR route.

However, the capital costs are only part of the financial picture. Revenues are the other part of the equation. EWR Co state:

‘The CBRR-based route would generate slightly higher revenues than Route B. However, these higher revenues are mostly offset by higher operating costs and whole life costs arising from the longer route and additional station at Northstowe.’ [CA underlining]

The word ‘mostly’ implies that, in fact, the greater revenues from the CBRR route more than compensate for any EWR Co-claimed additional construction costs.

Further information is provided in our post: CA post – capital costs.

16.32-34 – Environmental impacts and opportunities

The argument presented for the environment just lists issues with the northern approach. It makes no mention of the environmental impacts for a southern approach yet goes on to claim that:

‘A higher level of effort is therefore likely to be required to mitigate the effects of the presence of multiple environmental features compared to route options that approach Cambridge from the south.’

Not only is this illogical as they only present one side of the argument, but it flies in the face of the Wildlife Trust’s analysis. This clearly shows [CA post – environmental-impact] that there are approximately twice the number of environmental sites affected by a southern route than a northern one. The conclusion that a northern approach is more environmentally friendly is supported by Natural England, Cambridge Past, Present and Future and the Campaign for Rural England support northern approach. These organisations, unlike EWR Co who are based in Milton Keynes and Westminster, know the area well.

Not mentioned by EWR Co, but vitally important to residents, is the relative environmental noise and air quality impact of the two approaches. There are approximately 7 times (yes!) the number of properties within 200m of a representative southern route than the CBRR route.

Conclusions

In summary, we believe that EWR Co have a poor case for their approach into Cambridge. Far from justifying a southern approach, the evidence that we have provided strongly supports a northern approach. We have pointed all this out to EWR Co both in writing and at a recent meeting with the rail minister, Chris Heaton-Harris. Despite Mr Harris requesting that EWR respond promptly, we have yet (as of 16 March 21) to receive any reply.

Categories
news

Webinar: Fair Consultation on a Northern Approach to Cambridge (2)

David Revell from Cambridge Approaches and Sebastian Kindersley from CBRR will be presenting on this topic at

7pm on Tuesday 23rd March 2021 GMT.

The presentation will be based on the one given to the rail minister on the 23rd February 2021.

This presentation is primarily for residents of Comberton, Barton and Toft, but all are welcome and most of the material is generic.

To register for this zoom meeting please use the link below.

Register in advance for this meeting.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Categories
news

Webinar: Cambridge to Newmarket Corridor

I wrote 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:

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEqce2trT8vGNxi8LEACm5GwH7fFkc16–K

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Kind regards

Steve Edmondson
for Cambridge Approaches