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The Savanta study: do people support the East West Railway?

The East West Railway Company’s web site claims that “71% of people support an east-west public transport connection”. 

Given that EWRCo. have persistently refused to publish a business case for their project, it’s hard to see how anyone that cares about good use of public money can make an informed judgement about it. What information we have indicates that it will have a high capital cost and thereafter make operational losses considerably higher than the national average for UK railways. The logic[1] for central government support for the project is around a step change in housing growth in the OxCam Arc.

When looking at survey results it’s good to know

a) what was the question
b) who was asked the question and
c) who funded the study.

These questions are hard to tell from the EWRCo. website, but a recent response to a freedom of information request to them kindly gives us more detail. This is in the form of a presentation from a company called Savanta who performed the survey and reports on the main results to EWRCo.

This new information allows us to better address the questions a) to c) above.

What was the question?

There were several questions in the survey. The one referred to by the statistic on the EWRCo. website was this (presumably because EWRCo. liked the answer):

Do you think a new east-west public transport link, which connects communities between Oxford, Bicester, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge, is a good idea?

To say yes to this question requires no commitment to use it and the question could be referring to a bus route. A more challenging question for EWRCo. would have been whether people would regularly use their railway service.

One of the justifications for the OxCam Arc / EWR has been to solve problems related to the affordability of housing in cities. In this Savanta survey 45% of people said there would be a negative impact on affordability against only 17% who thought it would be positive. Why didn’t EWRCo. publish that?

Who was asked the question?

The summary provided by Savanta says that they conducted 1,000 interviews with individuals living within the East West Rail catchment area. 700 interviews were over the phone and 300 were face to face in Oxford, Cambridge, Milton Keynes/ Bletchley, Bedford, Sandy, Cambourne, Aylesbury and Bicester. 

Leeds University Institute for Transport Studies define the catchment area for a railway station as being within 800 metres[2] . This gives an indication where the people interviewed in the Savanta study were in the towns and cities indicated.  In all the surveyed towns, the proposed EWR station already exists except in the case of the small town of Cambourne where it is proposed to be next to an existing dual carriageway.

In general, the people surveyed will be expecting little disruption to their lives from the construction of the railway since there are existing tracks and some new options to travel to places that they currently cannot get to so quickly by rail. These people are a tiny fraction of the overall population of the area between Oxford and Cambridge and are likely to be those with the most to gain and the least to lose. The location of the people surveyed perhaps also explains why so many thought that house prices would go up – not a bad thing if you already own a house in the catchment area. To make the point another way by reducing it to the absurd: if you were asked whether you would like a publicly funded green helicopter service to wherever you want to go on demand from the end of your street – what would you say?

Who funded the study?

Of course, Savanta were funded by the EWRCo.  Both parties would therefore be motivated to find a valid but positive result for the EWR project. EWRCo. must know where the support for the railway lies based on their extensive but unpublished consultation results, so they would know where to conduct the survey. Not mentioning the fact that the survey was conducted in the catchment areas for their existing stations in their publicity seems misleading on the part of EWRCo.

Please ignore this flawed study. 


[1] such as it is, given the unsolved first and last mile problem.

[2] https://www.its.leeds.ac.uk/projects/konsult/private/level2/instruments/instrument004/l2_004b.htm


8 replies on “The Savanta study: do people support the East West Railway?”

If people in the street were asked ” would you want 10 new hospitals
or rail extension that will loose huge amounts of money”.
I wonder what the result would be?.

I think your analysis of the ewr biased/leaning questions survey and “mathematically insignificant” numbers surveyed can be applied to great effect to their original survey regarding which route for Cambridge, Northern or Southern. They say there was a majority view for a southern route but when you look at how many people responded, between Oxford and Cambridge (also based against the number of questionnaires they claim to have sent out) and of these responses how many were for a southern route it works out as “mathematically insignificant” when based against the number of people along the route. Ewr figures are so biased and tainted they CANNOT be used for analysis of a multi billion pound project.THEY KNOW THIS BUT KEEP PUMPING OUT THE PR, MARKETING AND SMOOZE!!
The quantity and depth of opposition to a southern approach is testament to how deep the flaw/fraud/slew in their questions/surveys actually is- they know this but do not have ANY answers and blindly try and push forward.
THEY WILL NOT WIN !

More deceit from EWR. They will publish rubbish like this because it is designed to suit their case but not the results of the public consultation because it will show significant opposition to EWR’s plans

The persistent misleading . Mismanagement poor honest public relations now leads us the public to believe that this company cannot be trusted. The destruction of the rural communities the destruction of peoples homes in Bedford the misleading of passenger numbers and the use of freight . The unbelievable costs of viaducts and cuttings . No thought give to how if in an incident accident derailment how emergency services could have access to attend . This is a poorly badly thought out project that needs to be terminated with immediate affect.

I am one of the many local constituents of the Cambridge South MP Anthony Browne, who has voiced my objection to the EWR rail route through my area, as where I live in Toft , is a conservation area.

It seems pure madness that public funds are being poured into the building of a rail link that only a small minority are calling for . Worse still it is undemocratic.
Small unrepresentative survey such as the Savanta report could about to a contemptuous dismissal of the public whose taxes will be used to subsidise this “Elephant White Railway” scandal.

At a time when people are crying out for better funding health care and education, why EWR?
Even on the rail front there is popular demand for the trans-pennine rail, or the northern extension of HS2.
Surely we are supposed to be a democracy?
The proposals for EWR are shrouded in secrecy known only to a small minority. This is setting a dangerous anti-democratic precedent.
Our MP should be standing up in Parliament and putting a stop to this nonsense- the question is why not?

As Churchill said: “democracy is not a perfect system of government , but it’s the best we have got”.
Cambridge deserves better than second best, we are a democratic country- let democracy prevail!

EWR – Biassed Survey but the rubbish suits their narrative so they publish … EWR commissioned a non-stautory consultation to which our community responded but the response has never been published – why? – we can only conclude it did not suit their narrative! What an utter shambles – we cannot expects truth and honour whilst they plan to unleash irreversible damage to the environment. I expect this is why they had difficulty recruiting and retaining a business case manage – truth hurts huh!

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