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  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.