Author: Caroline Baker

Response to East West Rail Consultation on Route Options For Central Section of a New Direct Rail Link Between Oxford and Cambridge

The Consultation Process

Shepreth Parish Council were concerned that the timescale of the non-statutory consultation allowed very little time for Parish Councils to organise Public Meetings in order to fully inform our parishioners about East West Rail Co, the Bedford to Cambridge route options on the proposed Oxford to Cambridge rail central Section and for our parishioners to make fully informed responses to the consultation.

In order to make a fully informed decision we, the Parish Council and parishioners of Shepreth, need to have all the information necessary to make that decision. We do not feel we have had the necessary information.

Lack of Clarity

Technical Report. Maps of the 5 proposed routes show crossed hatched areas on a background that shows existing rail lines, major towns and cities. The position of villages that would or could be affected by the route is not shown. It is virtually impossible to see which roads, major and minor, could or would be affected by the routes. What effect the policy of no new level crossings on the essential local road connectivity between neighbouring villages is also unknown. p.14 EWR Consultation Document states – ‘The number and locations of stations are indicative at this stage’

National Infrastructure Commission

EWR Consultation Document states that the NIC report of 2017 ‘’outlines that the economic success of the Oxford -Cambridge Arc has led to demand for homes exceeding supply. The undersupply of new homes has contributed to high house prices and low affordability for home ownership and future housing needs.’’

Although new homes continue to be built in the area of Route A, there is no noticeable reduction in house prices owing to the area being in easy commuting distance of London. In the unlikely event that Bassingbourn Barracks were developed, it is very likely that such a development would also be attractive to London Commuters who would be more likely to use Royston Station (2 1⁄2 miles). However, as Royston Station is already at capacity, it is possible that they will drive a little further to Meldreth or Shepreth Stations and exacerbating commuter parking problems around these stations. Commuters from Trumpington already use Shepreth Station as it is quicker, easier and cheaper than driving into Cambridge.
The northern routes B & E via Cambourne would give rail access to fast growing areas of more affordable housing north of Cambridge especially if more stations were built to serve new developments such as Northstowe.

EWR Co. Strategic Objectives

EW Rail Technical Report.2.7. In response to the NIC report, the strategic objectives for EWR have been revised to take account of the stronger focus on supporting growth by providing better connectivity for short distance journeys between towns and cities across the Arc and areas that could provide opportunities for new homes.

2.8. The strategic objectives set by the DfT for the EWR central section are now as follows:

  • Improve east-west public transport connectivity by providing rail links between key urban areas (current and anticipated) in the Oxford -Cambridge Arc;

  • Stimulate economic growth, housing and employment through the provision of new, reliable and attractive inter-urban passenger train services in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc;

  • Meet initial forecast passenger demand;

  • Consider and plan for future passenger demand, making provision where it is affordable;

  • Contribute to improved journey times and inter-regional passenger connectivity by connecting with north-south routes and routes beyond Oxford and Cambridge;

  • Maintain current capacity for rail freight and make appropriate provision for anticipated future growth; and

  • Provide a sustainable and value for money transport solution to support economic growth in the area.

    The northern routes B & E are closer in achieving these objectives.

    Multi Modal Corridors

    The Autumn budget of 2017 said ‘’ Develop the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway along the same broad corridor as East-West Rail – creating a multi-modal transport spine.’’
    Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire, stated that ‘’ East West Rail and the Expressway are well and truly on Government’s ‘’ To-Do’’ List. At every opportunity I get, I reinforce the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendation that their corridors must be aligned so that they serve existing and emerging communities.’’

    None of the EWR routes meet the NIC recommendations to align Road and Rail corridors to provide a Multi Modal Corridor.

    Conclusion

    At their meeting held on March 14th 2019 Shepreth Parish Council considered the proposed route options for the Cambridge to Bedford section of the proposed Oxford Cambridge Railway as well as the alternative route proposed by Cambedrailroad.
    Following our Public Meeting in February it was evident that the majority of Shepreth parishioners do not support routes A, C and D. There is limited support for routes B and E through Cambourne but almost unanimous support for the CBRR route through Cambourne. The CBRR route meets both the EWR Strategic objectives and the NIC recommendation for a Multi Modal Corridor.

    We fully endorse the responses from Bassingbourn cum Kneesworth Parish Council, Meldreth Parish Council, the Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership and Councillor Susan van de Ven, County Councillor for Bassingbourn, Whaddon, Meldreth and Melbourn and we fully support the proposal from Bassingbourn cum Kneesworth Parish Council and Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership that the CBRR route be ‘properly re-examined’ and ‘brought to public consultation.’