Reflections on the Eversdens and Harston EWR Drop-In Events June 22 & 26th 2023

There was a great turn out from local people to both these events. Good effort from EWRCo. for putting them on. Some of the staff were more knowledgeable / forthcoming than the low base of last year’s “no new information” event in Haslingfield. One thing I did notice was that EWRCo. staff never took any notes of what had been said to them, either they have good memories or perhaps the input is filed in the bin. Tick box exercise or consultation with the public? You decide.

Figure 1 Cambridge Approaches Protest in the Eversdens 22nd June 2023

Figure 2 Cambridge Approaches Protest in Harston 26th June 2023 (front page on the Cambridge News and the Independent)

Noisy Protest at the EWR Drop-in Event Harston 26/6/2023

There was also a good turnout from local politicians. We even had the Lib Dem MP candidate for the next General Election acknowledge the poor business case that the railway has in a tweet shortly after the event. Her opposite number also appeared in a puff of blue smoke and told the assembled crowds that “personally, he was against the railway” to great applause.  Democracy in action for the politicians.

In contrast, EWRCo. continued like the Titanic, completely unsinkable.

Figure 3 Is EWR Unsinkable?

As always there were interesting conversations with EWRCo. staff inside the hall. Here are some of them. Do add more in the comments. I have changed the names to protect the innocent! (with apologies to Douglas Adams).

“I spoke to a business case guy, Marvin, who had been at EWR a year. He said he had never worked on a project with a lower BCR than this one.  He also encouraged me to keep fighting the project(!) and didn’t make it sound like the northern approach was off the table.”

There was a recorded video of Beth West at the end of the room. It seems that someone had been sick over the video screen. Afterwards Trillian explained “Sorry, but my son vomited over the Beth West video screen”. I suspect it was at the point where Ms West was explaining that Tempsford is a brown-field site, even though RAF Tempsford is outside the 2km catchment for the station. Unfortunate, but understandable – the vomiting that is.

“I spoke to Zaphod on the business case side. He did not know that the local plan was held up by the water infrastructure. ‘Yeah, someone else told me that, just now’” I mean EWRCo. has only spent £150 million over the past two years studying the problem, you can’t expect them to know about our water infrastructure problems can you?

Zaphod also said, ‘we’re going to have to work hard on the business case because we have chosen the most expensive route. Yes, we also need to look at the local plan. I asked about there being only 20% of Cambridge commuters from Cambourne using the railway and would that not make the roads busier. He said ‘yes, rail is not a dominant mode [of transport]’. He also said, ‘it’s about houses, it’s always been about houses’.”

I challenged the Will Gallagher on the point that the jobs target for Cambridge in the local plan is an independently assessed demand estimate and that the local plan already has the interventions necessary to support those jobs. 57,000 houses supported by GCP’s various transport schemes. Either the 28,200 jobs that EWR is trying to support is additional the local plan – in which case why was the independently assessed forecast wrong? Or it is part of the local plan numbers in which case which part of the local plan needs to be undone? After a bit of dancing around he said, “it’s a fair challenge” and followed up with “in the end the chancellor will decide”. Resistance is futile.

“I spoke to Ford Prefect on the business case side and explained that lack of water infrastructure was a serious risk to his business plan, he replied that this was an environmental problem and that I should speak to an environmental person. I explained the concept of “responsibility dispersion” in the context of a railway project which was 95% about housing but the transport organisation proposing it took no responsibility for signing off on that housing and nor so far did anyone else. He thanks me for teaching him a new term. Responsibility dispersion, he’ll probably find it useful.”

“So, I spoke to an environment person, Wowbagger, who gave a great explanation of how biodiversity net gain would work. After an assessment of the number of units of biodiversity lost (the unit for biodiversity is called the “unit”), they would acquire land, ideally alongside the railway and create replacement habitats. In some cases, ten times the land area would be needed for the replacement as was lost in the first place. I asked if that meant they needed 2x or 10x the land for the railway and the housing developments to achieve the object. Wowbagger didn’t have an estimate, but it would not be that much.”

“I spoke to one of the local farmers at the event and he confirmed that he had been asked to sell them more land than was strictly required for the railway. He told them where to go with that.”

If you have more feedback from the event do add it to the comments.

12 replies on “Reflections on the Eversdens and Harston EWR Drop-In Events June 22 & 26th 2023”

I spoke to an ecologist who if not employed by EWR would be against the proposal.
Also I was surprised to hear that the line will be ‘four tracked’, when asked about the total width of land they would need to allow for ‘four tracking’ they could not answer.

Ecology reports based on a single short visit are worthless. They
are basically reports of land use. To say the railway will create more
habitats is ridiculous as any Ecologist will confirm that useful
habitats take many years to develop, if ever.

I spoke to an engineer, who confirmed that EWRCo doesn’t know how it will divert traffic when Long Road bridge is closed for rebuilding. I mentioned the need for emergency vehicles to get through, especially ambulances to Addenbrooke’s.

A Ponzi scheme needs more and more investors. In this case the investors are the ones hoodwinked into buying jerry-built new houses
convinced that they will ever increase in value and jobs are secure. This is not about building houses but printing money. At a time when we are drowning in debt the most irresponsible action is to increase debt insuring our children are crushed by the resulting high inflation.

The winners will be the property developers who have closed their companies, taken the money and run. The overseas investors who flew in and brought 50 houses off-plan will likely also have exited early from this Ponzi scheme. The globalist multinationals will take their magic potions and exploit new ventures elsewhere. It is a requiem for the wrong type of investment.

At Eversden I wasted time telling one of the people what I think about EWR (using polite words). Had conversation with pleasant ecologist who told me about tunnels and green bridges for wildllife to get through embankment or over the railway line. He admitted it was true that “mitigation” for bats near Norwich had been a failure. After many requests I have had a message that a report on the ecology surveys on my land may arrive soon. Good to count the bats, birds and trees to know what needs to be destroyed.. And “replaced” (???)

Fundamentally, they were unable to answer questions with any degree of accuracy or certainty. I doubt that they will have taken on board any feedback. My view is that they are obfuscating by either saying they don’t know ask someone else, or that it will all be available sometime during the statutory consultation. At the event, the business person was very shady about diesel freight trains and said that there would only be 2 an hour but it is nothing to do with them. The environment person said that was just wrong and there would be 8 trains an hour all through the night. The environment person had no answer to how much C02 would be generated in the construction of the railway or how many decades it would take to recover it. They seemed to have no idea of local or county plans and are being directed by a different set of rules. They acknowledged that that their strap line ‘Connecting Communities’ was in accurate as they will also disrupt communities! They recognised that the surrounding Cambridge area has terrible transport infrastructure but that was not their responsibility and that they are completely independent of any other transport plans.

Overall highly disappointing.

It is my personal view that there has been no meaningful consultation with any/all residents since our introduction to EWR. – and it will be very hard to live with the consequences of the proposed actions in South Cambs – apparently with our consent …. For clarity here I wish to confirm there is no ‘consent’.

I was buttonholed by a middle-aged lady wanted to know whether I was a villager.
I replied in the affirmative. Which village? This one.
“Oh, do you see that female at the back?” “I just asked her a question and she replied with a mouthful of abuse. It was horrible”.
Having to wait around for four hours can’t excuse this behaviour.
On my way out, said female was waiting at the door, so, she was definitely a staffer.

I waited to ask the engineer had they thought of loading passengers for C. South into the end of the train?
They could then be de-coupled at C. North and shunted to C. South.
“We can’t do that we don’t have infrastructure at C. South to turn trains around”. Oh! I thought. The old can’t-turn-trains-around routine, AGAIN.
I looked nonplussed and said nothing.
My engineer’s interlocutor, a well built chatty lady, chipped in with “He just doesn’t want to shunt passengers to C. South”
I looked nonplussed and said nothing, and she just kept talking.
I found the experience surreal with EWR not interested in, or capable of, engaging with the village.

I asked Gollum (middle-aged, bald), who would not let me record him on my phone, about what EWR would do about connections between villages which share amenities (school, pub, shop) as is the case with Harston & Newton and Harlton & Haslingfield. He said no-one had raised this, that it hadn’t been looked at, and I should raise it at the statutory consultation. This suggests that EWR did not read the responses to their questionnaires, as we certainly mentioned the issue. He wasn’t pleased when I screamed that they’s had three years planning, so what on earth had they been doing? He didn’y know about FOI request problems, he did concede I might have a point about problems with water if the developments EWR are assuming go ahead. My husband asked some of the badgeless gofers if they were employees of EWR or just hired in for the occasion – they said just hired in. Have we been dealing with a load of ignorant puppets in a series of Potemkin consultations?

If/When the statutory consultation happens next year I hope succinct versions of all that is said on this web page will be given as much public airing as possible as well as disappearing into black hole of their probably meaningless consultation. Surely some ministers, whoever they are by then, will take notice of a potential saving of the billions pencilled in for EWR?

At the Cambourne drop in I tried to find out more about the station , which will require existing Cambourne residents to go over the A428 on a foot/cycle bridge, though the thousands of new houses proposed by EWR and Gove will be built at Knapwell closer to the station. I also explained just how long it might take me to get from Caldecote to central or west Cambridge via EWR as opposed to along the Madingley Road at any time other than morning rush hour. My targets were amiable young men and I suspect privately not in disagreement.

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