More Cambridge Approaches Public Webinars on the EWR.

Some free Advice for EWR Co. about the Route Alignment, this time on the A603.

CA was invited to present to an Eversdens meeting on the 17t November with CBRR and Cllr Van De Weyer, deputy leader of SCDC. The meeting was very well attended and it was clear that there is considerable public opposition to the Option E decision in The Eversdens.

In addition to the CA webinar on the 20th November, we would like to invite you to two more public webinars.

Schedule as follows, click the link to see recordings:

7.30pm 2nd December 2020 Hauxton, The Shelfords, Newton, S. Trumpington.
7.30pm 3rd December 2020 Barton, Comberton, Toft

These webinars will be slightly tailored to address issues for the local parishes mentioned, but all are welcome. They follow on from the series of webinars we gave back in September and reflect our latest understanding of the situation.

There will be presentations from some of the members of the CA working group followed by a Q&A session. The 20th November webinar is currently near capacity so if you miss it, do feel free to register for one of these other ones.

Some More Concerned Residents of the Option E area. These ones are Legally Protected.
Business Case

Unexplained Cost Increases for the EWR Central Section

Peaceful View Across the Option E Area. Imagine a Deep Railway Cutting in the Foreground and these freight trains going through it.

EWR Co. have given us two snapshots of their cost estimates for the East West Railway Central Section (i.e. Bedford to Cambridge). Firstly, at the time of the last public consultation in January 2019 in Table 3 of the Technical Report[1] and then again in January 2020 when they announced the Option E decision in their Route Option Report[2]. Note that all figures are in 2010 prices so we have to add around 15.6% to get to 2019 prices.

Both reports give the total costs for each route option and then break them down into upfront capital costs and recurring costs over 60 years according to the Department for Transport methodology. The recurring[3] costs are the “infrastructure and renewal costs” (called “whole life costs” in the 2020 report, we assume that these are the same thing), operational costs and fare revenues. 

This analysis is done from the taxpayer’s point of view so fare revenue is treated as a cost, because the taxpayer has to pay the fares to use the trains.

The Option Report also gives figures using a more optimistic (we think very optimistic) NIC high growth assumption and the costs are higher. The cost figures we give here are the lower “Department for Transport (DfT) Business as Usual” (BAU) figures.

The three tables below show the total, capital and recurring costs. The total is just the sum of the capital and recurring costs. The figures in the table are the costs in the Technical Report, the costs in the Option Report and the percentage increase from one to the other. 

Table 1 Comparison of Total Costs
Table 2 Comparison of Capital Costs
Table 3 Comparison of Recurring Costs

First impressions looking at the data:

  1. all the total costs went up hugely and, since EWR Co. did not present a comparison, they made no comments about why this has happened. 
  2. the recurring costs went up by so much it gives one very little confidence that they are right. If they are right now, then they were very misleading at the consultation.
  3. the capital cost for Option E rose by much less than the other options and no explanation is given. However, it is certainly a useful result for EWR Co. as it allows them to justify the choice of Option E since it was otherwise the most expensive of the 5 options.
  4. The total cost figures for 4 of the options are identical – this may be an unlikely coincidence or possibly that the cost estimates have not been produced with the expected amount of rigour.

Note 33 on p.100 of the Option Report states that for the DfT BAU table 15.4 (the data we presented above), the Bassingbourn station is removed in Options A, C and D, while for the NIC high growth table 15.5 the station is left in. It then says that the capital costs therefore differ between the growth scenarios for these route options.

However, we find that while the capital costs of A and D do go up by £0.3 and £0.2 billion respectively, to allow for the additional station, the capital cost of Option C is unchanged at £3.5 billion. Option C is therefore anomalous.

Looking again at table 15.4 the revenues for Options A, C and D are not significantly lower than Options B and E even though they have one less station. How can that be?  

Questions for East West Rail

  1. Please can you explain the huge increase in capital cost between the figures in table 3 of the Technical Report and Table 15.4 of the Options Report?
  2. Why did the recurring costs (the difference between the total costs and the capital costs) go up by up to 1100% between the same two reports?
  3. In the light of the order of magnitude increase in recurring costs, does that mean that the recurring costs implied at the time of the public consultation were misleading? If not, why not?
  4. In the light of the order of magnitude increase in recurring costs, how can we have confidence that the figures currently presented are anything like correct? 
  5. Why did the capital cost of the chosen Option E uniquely rise by so much less than the other options? This is the main reason why the most expensive option in January 2019, became the one with the highest BCR in January 2020. Without an explanation of this cost increase, this BCR justification of Option E is meaningless. So please give a detailed explanation.
  6. What was the cost given by the MoD to remove their Bassingbourn site and what alternatives were looked at?
  7. Given that Options A, C and D did not have a station at Bassingbourn in Table 15.4 why was there no visible impact on the revenues, whole life costs or operating costs?
  8. Given that you state in note 33 on p.100 of the 2020 Options Report that the removal of Bassingbourn Station reduces the capital cost, why is the capital cost identical for Route C in Tables 15.4 and 15.5 of the same report?

[1] East West Rail Bedford to Cambridge Route Option Consultation Technical Report January 2019 Table 3, p.40

[2] East West Rail Bedford to Cambridge Preferred Route Option Report January 2020 Table 15.4, p.100

[3] EWR Co. do not give these a name, but we refer to them here as recurring costs.


Webinar for The Eversdens, Harlton, Haslingfield and Harston

Another CA Poster – see details at the end of this post for how to get one for your village.

Cambridge Approaches have made some progress since our last round of webinars back in September. We would like to do an updated webinar initially for residents of The Eversdens, Harlton, Haslingfield and Harston and in conjunction with parish councillors from these villages.

The presentation will be led by David Revell of Cambridge Approaches who is a civil engineer with extensive experience of railway construction and a resident of the area. He will be supported by other CA members of the working and oversight group as necessary.

As before, there will be ample opportunity for residents to ask questions.

The schedule of the webinar is as follows:

We expect the webinars to last about an hour or so.

**** Here is a link to the recording.****


If you have a site for one of these large posters and would like one please email They are quite expensive (£40 each) which is the cost we pay to the printer. But in the right place they can be very effective at spreading the word and letting people know how we feel.


Cambridge Approaches Praises Use of Multi-Modal Corridors for the EWR Central Section

Road and Rail in the Same Corridor. M1 near Mill Hill

Cambridge Approaches is pleased to see the recent  “announcement of new a off-road route for the C2C guided busway” between Cambourne and Cambridge, partly along the north side of the A428. The guided bus and Metro would relieve the pressure on local transport systems and shows a great example of joint planning by using multi-modal design where different forms of transport use the same corridors. We need to see more of this type of planning.

The National Infrastructure Commission report “Partnering for Prosperity” encapsulates the transport vision for the Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge Arc. “The proposed East West Rail and Oxford-Cambridge Expressway projects would provide a step change in connectivity across the arc, linking its major economic centres in a way not seen for over half a century. 

“These schemes, taken together, have the potential to create a multi-modal transport spine, which through new stations and junctions, can enable the creation of new communities.”

Multi-modal transport spines or corridors have several benefits. They can:

  • allow passengers to easily change between modes of transport: car, train, bus, cycle, walking and metro
  • reduce the impact on villages and the surrounding countryside / urban landscape in several ways: noise, visual, farming, severance of roads and rights of way, listed buildings, historical sites, wildlife reserves and the beautiful countryside we all appreciate
  • allow a better alignment with local development plans
  • offer opportunities for shared infrastructure costs and hence are fiscally efficient.

Cambridge Approaches welcomes the news that East West Rail Company is also looking at a multi-modal corridor and has listened to feedback on the subject. However, they have expressed some general concerns about the use of such a corridor alongside the A428 and the M11 but Cambridge Approaches considers that these are not valid in these locations. 

The East West Railway concerns about the practicality of multi-modal spines are shown below with Cambridge Approaches responses: 

“• Railways and roads have different tolerance for gradients: roads can climb much more steeply than rail The proposed line is going through reasonably flat countryside.

• Railways and roads have different preferences for curves: road designers tend to prefer to include bends and other features in new roads – avoiding long, straight sections helps to keep drivers alert; railway designers prefer long, straight sections to improve visibility. The A428 and M11 are broadly straight and certainly within the limit of curves for railways. 

• Bringing them close in places but diverging in others could result in areas between the two becoming wasted ‘dead land’. With careful planning, the road, rail, bus and bicycle lanes could all stay close together to reduce any dead land. Any unavoidable dead spaces could be used for wildlife protection.

• Creating appropriate access routes for people to cross a combined rail-road corridor could be more challenging than across two separate projects. If the routes for transport are sensibly designed with small areas of dead land between them (see above), continuous bridges crossing will be cheaper than individual bridges crossing separated transport routes.

It may be that for short stretches in specific locations building road and rail close together is the right approach. 

We are keen to explore the efficiencies which could be realised from more than one infrastructure project working in the same area at the same time. We are in touch with the team at the A428 and will continue to work with our counterparts at Highways England and your Local Authorities to ensure that the planning and delivery of these transformative projects is coordinated.”

If one wants an example of road and rail side-by-side have a look at the stretch of the M1 from Mill Hill to the north circular road. This was built about 50 years ago; Cambridge Approaches is encouraging EWR Co to persist with using multi modal corridors. Rural south west Cambridgeshire deserves better than the further pillage of the option E area by multiple route corridors for transport that doesn’t serve its communities.

Cambridge Approaches is urging EWR to use existing transport corridors where this is at all practical. Cambridge Approaches is calling on the local politicians and planners to resist attempts by EWR Co to use railway lines outside of existing transport corridors unless essential.

Business Case

Is the EWR Central Section a Boondoggle? A Sanity Check on its Business Case.

Whatever you think of the Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman, he did make some really interesting points. For example, he proposed that spending should be categorized according to a 2 by 2 box as follows[1]:

You are the Spender On Whom SpentOn Whom Spent
Whose MoneyYouSomeone Else
Someone else’s34
Milton Friedman’s Spending Categories 1-4

He then goes on to give many examples of how category 1 spending is often performed much more efficiently than the other categories especially category 4. Category 4 spending can often result in a Boondoggle. This is defined by Wikipedia as “a project that is considered a waste of both time and money, yet is often continued due to extraneous policy or political motivations.”

The East West Railway Central Section (EWR CS) is definitely category 4 spending. Let’s see what we might think of it, if it were category 1.

The estimated total cost of the EWR CS rose from £1.9Bn[2] for option A in the January 2019 consultation to £5.6Bn[3] for the chosen option E in January 2020. That’s an increase of 295%. Little or no explanation of this increase is given in the EWR Preferred Option Report and shame on me for not questioning it. But hey, it’s someone else’s money, right?

Well, the government either pays for it out of taxation in which case we all pay for it now, or adds to the peacetime record £2 trillion public debt and our children or grandchildren pay for it. Another option is that we have a period of high inflation in which case, well we all pay for it. There is no escape from the cost and, since south Cambridgeshire is quite a wealthy area, we can expect to pay more than pro-rata of the UK population.

How much do we pay each? Well, there are public works going on all over the UK, so let’s generously attribute this to the to the population of the Oxford Cambridge Arc which is currently 3.7 million people. Let’s further assume that only half of these live in the Bedford to Cambridge section. Taking an average of 2.5 people per household then we are looking at a bill of 2 x 2.5 x 5.6e9 / 3.7e6 = £7,568 per household. Ouch! If you had the choice, would your household spend this on the railway?

The railway is being optimised for long distance trips rather than lots of stations to support commuting. I have been in the Cambridge area since the 1980s and I have been to beautiful Oxford 3 times, once by bus, once on the way back from a holiday in Wales and once by car. Milton Keynes, well, I’ve been to Ikea, but I needed to take the car to bring back the furniture. Bedford, Bicester, St. Neots, Aylesbury etc, sorry never been there.

I have worked in the Cambridge Tech sector for decades, travelled all around the world, but latterly found that much of the collaboration was by digital means. Am I typical? Well let’s look at the 2014 Atkins report which was one of the early studies underlying the East West Railway. Under the section “evidence-based conclusions” we find: 

“Poor east-west orbital connectivity in is apparent in long journey times by both rail and car and is also reflected in the very low demand at present between locations on this arc;”

This is a curious statement. They found evidence for poor demand and assumed that if they built an expressway and an east west railway then demand would grow. Probably true, but would it grow enough to pay for the costs? Atkins are a large consulting company are they at all conflicted in making an assessment for the case for the East West Railway? Anyway, it looks like a high-risk assumption to me. But hey, it’s not my money, right?

Even a back of fag packet calculation shows there’s a problem.

From there are very roughly 250,000 people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in classes of occupation who may be considered to do a lot of business travel (managers, directors and senior officials, professional occupations, assoc. prof. and tech occupations, sales and customer services from Occupation Type table).

Very generously, guess that 10% of these people would travel to Oxford or Milton Keynes etc once a month on average. This equates to a total of 25,000 trips per month (each way). 

Number of trains per month at say 4 trains an hour for 8 hours each way = 4x8x30 = 960, say 1,000 trains per month

Number of business people per train = 25.

OK there are some people travelling for leisure and other reasons as well and it doesn’t allow for potential growth over 100 years, but given that an 8-car train can take about 400 people and even if the demand calculations are out by a factor of 2, there is still a problem for such a line. 

At the very least the EWR CS should be delayed until the demand is properly estimated and publicised in a more stable economic climate (post pandemic and post Brexit).

Another piece of evidence can be found in this diagram in the National Infrastructure Commission report on the Oxford Cambridge Arc.

Figure 9 of NIC Report Partnering for Prosperity

This diagram shows the strong demand for commuting around all the cities in the Arc. It does not demonstrate demand for travel from end to end. Meeting commuter demand is linked to supporting housing growth which is an objective of the NIC report for the development of the Arc. 

There are cheaper ways to meet commuter demand than a heavy railway such as the EWR CS. What about busways, trams and a local light railway such as the proposed Cambridge Metro?

So that you can see the disconnect in thinking here, let’s have a look at what the EWR Co.’s route option report says about the business case for the Option E decision.

“1.19  EWR Co’s analysis has concluded that when looking across these five key criteria Route E is most likely to deliver against the strategic objectives for EWR and provide the best overall value for money from government’s investment in the railway.”

There is an imagination failure. Where is the comparison with the counterfactual, do nothing assumption? Where is the comparison with other solutions to meet the need to support commuters/housing development?

Given the current (lack of) evidence presented for the EWR CS by government, it looks like a Boondoggle to me and I’d rather my £7,568 was spent on something else.

[1] Milton Friedman “Free to Choose” 1980, p.146

[2] EWR Bedford to Cambridge Route Option Consultation Technical Report January 2019 §9.1, Table 3, p.40

[3] EWR Bedford to Cambridge Preferred Route Option Report January 2020  §15.13, Table 15.4, p.100


Cambridge Approaches Working Group Current Objectives

These posters are starting to appear in the Option E area, get in touch if you want one.

It’s been a while since we reviewed the Cambridge Approaches objectives so we felt it was time for an update – here it is.

If there is a case for the East West Railway, we support the route going through a new Cambourne North Station rather than Cambourne South and will continue to make the case for that with stakeholders. In this we are supporting our local MP, the Mayor of the Combined Authority and members of the Local District Council. We call on EWR not to ignore the combined weight of this opinion and the voice of the parishes. 

Whichever stops are chosen for the railway, we believe that EWR should consult on the variety of options that it could take through Cambourne North; especially as this is a new location not previously considered or discussed.

Until we have further facts, we remain to be convinced about the case for the East West Railway so the consultation needs to cover all the unresolved issues. For example, the business case is poor and not clearly justified; there is no alignment with the local plan from SCDC and other local authorities; it does not make enough use of multi-modal corridors; it may affect our food security; it causes unnecessary environmental damage and planning blight dividing communities in the process. 

We are conscious that some very important decisions were made before the first consultation (now some two years ago) on the need for the railway and its approach to Cambridge and these have not been properly justified or back checked.  In particular the co-ordination with other transport initiatives such as the Metro to meet commuter demand is not evident; there is little mention of freight – indeed the story of freight resembles that of Schrodinger’s cat. We will continue to research and question EWR Co. and others on these and any other significant points that arise.

Cambridge Approaches continues to make local people aware of the impending threat to the Option E area and to seek means to reduce or ideally eliminate the impact of the railway on residents and the environment. There is no ideal answer, so we will not elaborate further on alternative route options nor will we try to broker compromises between affected parties – that is EWR Co.’s job and for them to justify the route chosen. However, we will advise on facts if you have a specific question. 

Cambridge Approaches Working Group October 2020


District Councillor Supports Cambourne North

A prominent Lib. Dem. District Councillor for the Harston and Comberton Ward (representing the parishes of Barton, Comberton, Coton, Grantchester, Harlton, Harston, Haslingfield, Hauxton, South Trumpington) and recent, narrowly defeated MP candidate has come out supporting a Cambourne North Station for the East West Railway. This is not a party political issue, but it is good to see cross-party support for this. Here is Ian Sollom’s statement:

“An EWR route via Cambourne is undoubtedly right for South Cambs, but in the coming consultation we need to see more options than we saw in the previous one, which had a station only on the south side of Cambourne, and suggested only a single route corridor from there into Cambridge.
A well designed and well-placed station to the north side of Cambourne has the potential to be transformative for the community, while a route from there into Cambridge North could be a much better fit for future local development. Both of these options should be included in EWR’s next consultation so the people of South Cambs can have their say on these alternatives.”

So we now have Anthony Browne MP, Mayor James Palmer, Councillor Ian Sollom, the Cambridge Approaches Oversight Group vote from 12 parishes and Cambourne Town Council amongst many others all asking EWR Co. to put a Cambourne North Station into their next Consultation. We have also now heard verbally from EWR Co.’s Will Gallagher and Ian Parker that they are looking closely at a Cambourne North option for the next consultation.

If a Cambourne North route does appear in the next consultation, it seems likely to be popular with all the politicians.

It is also good to see some press coverage of Anthony Browne’s call for a Cambourne North Station in the Cambridge Independent including comment from EWR Co. that they are looking at a Cambourne North Station. The EWR Co. spokeperson said “We are exploring the option for a station in the north of Cambourne as we continue to develop route alignment options, prior to consulting the public early next year.”


Oct 8th Meeting Presentation

Below is a link to the PowerPoint presentation that was used at the meeting with Anthony Browne MP, EWR, SCDC, ‘Option E’ parish council representatives and Cambridge Approaches.

Although there was not unanimity, the majority of parish council representatives:

1) rejected the main body of the Option E area for EWR

2) supported a station to the north of Cambourne


Logging EWR Survey Activity

You may have noticed an increased level of activity in the area proposed for East West Rail to come from Cambourne to Cambridge South. Survey teams from Arup or EWR Co. looking  at the fields, the wildlife and the general environment as a preparation for a new railway line through our countryside. 

We have an interactive map that shows survey requests received by landowners but this may now be out of date. Please would you be so kind to look at it and see if your are aware of survey locations not on the map. Be aware of a potential GDPR issue here, so it is better to report on your own land rather than others, but also to report on anything seen on public roads / rights of way. 

So, if your land is being surveyed, you have received a request for a survey or you see a survey team on a public highway / right of way that is not recorded please could you update the map?

To add a survey location and label to the map click the add marker icon (a grey balloon shaped icon) under the search box on the map, click the location of the survey and then label it.

This is important as it allows us to have information from which we can detect lines of activity and inform your parish accordingly. 

Handling Survey Requests

We are currently reviewing the pros and cons of accepting survey requests.


MP Calls for North Cambourne Station Consultation

We really welcome following press release from Anthony Browne supporting a Cambourne North Station for the East West Railway. This position was also the most popular option that came out of the Cambridge Approaches oversight group in a series of seven meetings leading up to the one held on the 8th October. This was attended by Anthony Browne MP, Will Gallagher of East West Rail, Aidan Van De Weyer Deputy Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council and representatives from the parishes from Bourn to Great Shelford. Cambridge Approaches called on East West Rail to include a Cambourne North route in their next consultation expected in January 2021.

In a recent meeting between the CA working group and Mayor James Palmer he told us that he also supports a Cambourne North station for East West Rail.

A Cambourne North station implies a route similar to the example set out in this post from Cambridge Approaches and has a profound impact on the routing of the railway at it approaches Cambridge. We stress that the CA route is just an example and there is considerable more detailed work to do in threading the route through the various constraints between Cambourne North and Cambridge South.

The MPs press release follows:

“Anthony Browne, MP for South Cambridgeshire, has welcomed news that East-West Rail (EWR) is considering a station to the north of Cambourne and is calling for the option to be included in any future consultation. 

As part of a meeting between EWR and local Parish Councillors, chaired and organised by Mr Browne, officials confirmed that the possibility of a railway station to the north of Cambourne was under active consideration. 

Mr Browne worked towards securing a northern option as part of his general election campaign and has written to the Secretary of State for Transport on this issue. He is continuing to arrange high-level meetings between senior EWR planners and local representatives.

Twenty-eight Parish Councils were represented at the meeting, which was addressed by the EWR Director of Strategy Will Gallagher, with Program Delivery Director Ian Parker taking questions on the design and implementation of the railway. Ashton Cull, Senior Policy Advisor to Combined Authority Mayor James Palmer was also in attendance. 

Several other local concerns were also raised during the meeting, including early electrification of the railway, potential timetabling issues and the environmental impact of the scheme. 

Mr Browne commented: “East-West Rail is clearly listening to local opinion and I am delighted to hear they are considering a station north of Cambourne. I’m now calling on them to include any such option as part of a future public consultation. 

“I believe there is a very powerful case for a station to the north of Cambourne, where it will avoid many much-loved areas of natural beauty and will provide better connections with other transport links, such as the A428.

“We need better public transport links through South Cambridgeshire, but it is important that any engagement is wide-ranging, transparent and happens as early on in this process as is possible. Residents have the right to know what they can expect from this project.”