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Outstanding Information Requests to EWR Co.

“[EWR Co.’s] drive to put Community Right at the Heart of the new East West Rail Connection” Source: EWR Co. Community Hub – Why Would our Community be Worried About That?

Background: Encounters with a Boondoggle

During the 2021 consultation, Cambridge Approaches requested some more information from EWR Co. to inform our response. Despite considerable efforts from EWR Co. and ourselves, previous experience with trying to get useful answers from EWR Co. led us to try instead getting legal help from lawyers Leigh Day in drafting the key information requests. Around the time that the consultation closed, all our requests were refused. EWR Co. said that the requests were “vexatious” and “manifestly unreasonable” and that the public interest lay in refusal. They reached this conclusion not just by reviewing the actual requests, but looking at the correspondence that they had received from Cambridge Approaches and anybody they judged might have been in contact with us over the previous year or so. They also looked at minutes of parish council meetings discussing the EWR. It seemed anything but focussing on the information we had actually asked for. We appealed the decision after the consultation had closed because we felt that this information was still important and to give EWR Co. a chance to review their decision when they were not in the middle of the consultation. Unfortunately, their internal review response was very similar to the first one. We have referred the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office who have undertaken to review it. There is six month long queue at the ICO. Sadly it seems our experience with this process is not unusual.

I have copied the information that we requested in the letter drafted by Leigh Day below. What do you think? Are they manifestly unreasonable? Are they vexatious? Or were we just trying to understand the underlying information behind the options they had considered for the railway’s approach to Cambridge? I was there and can tell you that our intention was the latter. On our side we hope to resume a more constructive dialog with EWR Co.

Our Outstanding Requests for Information from May 2021

Request 1: EWR is asked to provide the information constituting the “high-level environmental appraisal” of the nine Route Alignment Options and the proposed northern approach

Request 2: Insofar as it is not covered by request 1, EWR is asked to provide the information upon which it relies in concluding that it is “confident” that the detailed design can mitigate any impacts on the Wimpole and Eversden Woods SAC. Such information is to include the impacts identified and the mitigations considered.

Request 3: EWR is asked to provide the information constituting the “operational analysis” on which it relies in concluding that the northern approach proposed in appendix F of the Second Consultation Document would require the provision of a four-track railway in section NA2.

Request 4: EWR is asked to provide the information upon which it relies in concluding that the Shepreth Branch Royston Line could remain as a twin track railway from the new Hauxton Junction to the Shepreth Branch Junction.

Request 5: EWR is asked to provide the information on which it relies in concluding that no “significant alterations” will be needed to the bridge where the Shepreth Branch Royston Line crosses under the A1301. Such information is to extend (insofar as it has been considered) to both a two and four-track approach to the Shepreth Branch Line and to the grade-separated junction that EWR considers may be needed at Shepreth Branch Junction

Request 6: EWR is asked to provide the information it holds in respect of any assessment of the number of properties that would need to be demolished if the portion of the Shepreth Branch Royston Line from the Hauxton Junction to the Shepreth Branch Junction were to require works to increase the number of tracks 

Request 7: EWR is asked to provide any non-public information provided to it by Network Rail or other organisations, or any assessment it has itself undertaken, which leads to the conclusion that there may be demand by 2043/2044 for around 24 freight trains per day on the line between Bedford and Cambridge. Such information is to include any quantification of the current freight use of the Shepreth Branch Royston Line and the West Anglia Main Line.

Request 8: EWR is asked to explain the need in principle for the viaducts, cuttings, and embankments between Cambourne and Hauxton Junction on the southern approach

Request 9: EWR is asked to provide any engineering long section drawings which it has produced to assess the northern approach.  If no such drawings exist, EWR is asked to provide (a) the length of viaduct; (b) length in cutting; and, (c) length on embankment of its proposed northern approach.

Request 10: Insofar as EWR has already undertaken this assessment, EWR is asked to provide a list of the roads which will be permanently severed or otherwise obstructed by each of the Route Alignment Options comprised in the southern approach (Cambourne through to Cambridge station)

Request 11: EWR is asked to provide the information constituting the updated “cost estimates” provided by Network Rail and Atkins referred to in the Second Consultation Technical Report at 5.4.12, and any such cost estimates produced subsequent to those referred to in that paragraph. Such estimates are not to be limited to the figures, and should (insofar as they exist) include the explanation of the estimates provided by Network Rail and Atkins

25 replies on “Outstanding Information Requests to EWR Co.”

Excellent questions and definitely not vexatious. Good heavens. I have to wonder where some people’s heads are at at this time in history.

These questions are not vexatious or anything else, but are asked in the public interest. Keep asking these questions as we have a right to know the answers.

In my opinion EWR has failed to adequately explain the route it has chosen to take and I welcome further questions.

The scale of the envronmental impact of this project is MASSIVE ….. EWR say they want to work with us ….. so give us information so we can understand ….. please ….. the requests are reasonable and not vaxatious ….. and such a response is not fostering a good culture of trust.

I would not consider these vexatious and indeed would have thought there are more questions to be asked about the Northern route to help highlight its relative attractiveness.
Who else should we be bringing this lack of engagement to the notice of? Local MP’s, certain Ministers? Councillors? etc as well as others in EWR possibly. What is the legal remedy to poor consultation?
Many thanks again.

I have just sent the following email to Anthony Browne MP:

Dear Anthony

It is clear that a significant number of people, myself included, find the consultation on the St Neots to Cambridge section of this railway deeply flawed. The pressure group ‘Cambridge Approaches’ speaks for many residents in the area, giving EWL the opportunity to deal with one well-informed, representative, rational and logical organisation rather than a large disparate number of residents with partisan and personal views.

But Cambridge Approaches cannot get answers to its reasonable questions. EWL has decided they are ‘vexatious’ and that it is not in the public interest to answer them.

I suspect that the truth is that it is not in EWL’s interest to answer them, Cambridge Approaches has now referred the matter of EWL’s intransigence to the Information Commissioner, but this office has a six month backlog.

Is anybody overseeing this consultation, or can EWL do as it pleases? What are we supposed to do? Is it not possible to compel EWL to respond to reasonable questions? If not, the consultation is a farce.

I know that you have become involved to a limited extent in this major infrastructure project, but I now ask that you become more involved to ensure that EWL is listening and is making the best choices for the residents of this region, rather than pursuing its own agenda, whatever that may be.

Peter Stokes

There is only one group being vexatious here and it’s not us, but EWR. Their response is a travesty of democratic procedures.

The concerns you raised are not vexations or unreasonable. This is a formidable project on a vast scale. The local residents have a right to seek clarification and assurances. They simply cannot refuse your reasonable attempts to help us all.

EWR’s response is totally unsatisfactory and unreasonable.. The questions are certainly not vexatious. I suspect that they just cannot be bothered to do the work involved in providing the answers. Keep up the pressure! Well done for your efforts to protect our environment and our wildlife.
.Anthony Dansie

The concerns you raised are not vexations or unreasonable. The local residents have a right to seek clarification and assurances. They simply cannot refuse your reasonable attempts to help reassure us all

The questions which have been asked are totally reasonable, certainly not vexatious and the answers must already be known by EWR if any credence can be given to the route plan that EWR have proposed. If they do not have that information – this only shows that their plan is poorly constructed and flawed. If they do have the answers, the information should be released in the public domain to those who have a genuine interest.

The facts speak for themselves – if they can’t give answers to these questions they haven’t got the answers which means their proposal is a collective guess!

Well, I think the representatives of the parishes know what questions to ask at their Zoom meetings with EWR later this month.

Unfortunately the charge that anyone with views or ideas which differ from their own must be “vexatious” appears to be a common trend within the industry.

Indeed when I tried to speak to one well-known rail design academic to put forward my refutation of EWR Co’s northern approach dismissal, he wouldn’t even read my proposal – instead proclaiming that I’m obviously acting in bad faith and a NIMBY.

I fear that following the huge furore around HS2, many have simply closed their eyes and ears to any potential criticism, battened down the hatches and formed a bunker mentality to push forwards what they decided long ago was the “one true path”

It’s a really sorry state of affairs, and will ultimately leave the country much poorer

Isn’t their refusal to release their data and how their decisions are arrived at the vexatious element in this? Vexatious is defined as Causing or tending to cause annoyance, frustration, or worry. Keep on with your approach – after all, this is all about taking the right approach in what is done!

Cambridge Approaches requests are entirely reasonable. As a resident affected by these EWR proposals I would like to see a full response.

Thank you Cambridge Approaches for sorting the wheat from the chaff. Your engineering knowledge is providing a vital component to parish debate.

I would also care to know why no routes were proposed through the land belonging to Trumpington Farms or the University Astronomy Dept. Was some dirty deal done?
Why are these two exempted from the plans, at the expense of local communities who might have to endure the blight of this monstrous white elephant for decades to come?

EWR are hoping we will go away but we are not as we live here. Perfectly reasonable questions and the sort that any company should ask themselves before entering into such a project.

Excellent words and questions. Coming from Bedford EWR where there preferred route (E) means the demolition of a large number of houses our meeting in October 2021. They were not even able to give a clear assessment of how people claimed or what monies were being offered to the houses this related too. Given how much work has been completed to date I think they are an extremely unprofessional organisation.

Quite extraordinary. Why are our questions considered to be unreasonable? There are absolutely NO advantages to us. I am so sad that our environment is going to be blighted for us and our children.

Unprofesionalism on this scale must mean that at least one of the following must be true

1) Someones pocket is being lined
2) There is deceit on an industrial scale
3) EWS’s brief is diametrically opposed to the public interest

Could it be that all three are true?
Surely not!
This is England after all.

Given the impact that EWR will have on people’s lives (good and bad), it seems unprofessional not to want to engage at a more detailed level. I can only assume that its ‘stakeholder engagement team’ is short of staff and/or the necessary technical knowledge. The impression left hardly builds trust

EWR attitude to us has looked questionable from the outset. The choice of route option avoiding all of the housing growth to the north, the farcical provision of environmental benefits to the blighted residents via 30ft high embankments are two examples of EWR being unwilling to listen to any of us including Cambridge Approaches.

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