Smarter Cambridge Transport

Making the best of the latest proposals for East West Rail

Around a thousand pages of material were made available to the public last week, as part of a new consultation on the latest East West Rail (EWR) proposals. Sixty pages [1] are devoted to examining in detail the alternative northern approach favoured by many. Whilst no route can be perfect, it is hard to dispute the report’s conclusion that the proposed southern approach is, on balance, the best option.

So, now we need to work together to ensure the area that EWR runs through gets as much benefit – and as little downside – as possible.

Electrification is a must. Government should simply commit to electrifying all trunk routes, including EWR. That will allay concerns about diesel freight locomotives.

The Government’s “Gear Change” vision document states, “Major new rail corridors will be designed to support local and National Cycle Network plans for improved traffic free links between communities within the corridor. This will help lock in benefits to communities disrupted by construction of new railways with a legacy of new greenways offering better connections between places.”

EWR is therefore a great opportunity to create new and better ‘active travel’ routes between villages, giving many more people safe and independent access to their local school, shops, sports field, church, railway station, travel hub and country walks. Parish councils need to start discussions about what new rights of way they would like as compensation for the disruption of EWR.

Network Rail’s desire to eliminate level crossings on safety grounds is another potential opportunity. Re-routing the A10 alongside the railway line between Foxton and London Rd could remove through-traffic from much of Harston. Replacing the level crossing between Hauxton and Little Shelford with a cycle/footbridge would remove through-traffic from Hauxton and create a safe route to walk, cycle or mobility-scooter between the villages.

It’s easy to see the down-sides of change, and nobody should belittle people’s fears and concerns about a new railway being built close to where they live. However, we do have an opportunity to refine and improve the plans to gain net benefits wherever possible, for ourselves and future generations.

[1] Consultation Technical Report, Appendix F, pp44–

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 7 April 2021.

Jim Chisholm

Jim Chisholm, perhaps best known for the ‘Chisholm Trail’, is involved in many national transport campaigning issues. He has worked in transport research, including at the Government Transport Research Laboratory, for 15 years. “I believe that all people, and all modes of transport need to be catered for in an equitable way.”


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  • Hi Jim,

    It’s easy to ‘cherry pick’ from within a consultation document as complex as this one.
    Many people of course don’t have the slightest interest in this huge project, or where it will go, but those who do tend to fall into two camps.

    1. Those who have their own agenda as to what happens in and around Cambridge, and probably will not change their minds.

    2. Those who might hold strong opinions, but are prepared to fully consider all the facts and figures associated with the issue.

    There are plenty of people around, as you will be aware, for whom it is easy to latch onto an idea or concept if it fits with their own perceptions. They are in the first category.

    The second category is less well populated. It requires a huge amount of self discipline to absorb all the presented facts such as those in the consultation document. Then to do a lot of further research, either as an individual or as a collective, to seek out the relevant information (and facts) which are either deliberately, or by neglect, left out.
    I fall firmly into that second category.

    I have satisfied myself that there was no public consultation into whether a north or south approach into Cambridge would be preferred (see the technical report of the 2019 consultation). This alone is simply disgraceful. Add to that the fact that very few local people were aware of the project at that time, and that any decision of a radical nature, such as the unilateral choice of southern approach, taken without the publics awareness or approval, is unacceptable.

    It may be the case that a southern approach suits you ambitions. I don’t know. But I cannot believe you, as a resident of Cambridge, are happy to support a choice that is likely to become a reality, and which condemns the city, and the west and east approaches to permanent despoilment.

    There are plenty of better alignments than the one being pushed at the moment. Please do engage with those who have done a huge amount of research into the issues surrounding this project, and be prepared to listen with an open mind.

    Kind regards

  • Briefly, I find it surprising that you can reject the Northern option when it is clear that the consultation was clearly lacking. Cambridge Approaches have produced a detailed rebuttal to the dismissal of the Northern option. It may of course end with the Southern approach being chosen, but the decision making process is far from transparent.