Those who will be negatively impacted by the construction and operation of the new railway find little solace in being told, “It’s for the greater good.” There is, after all, no good answer to the question, “Why should it be me who pays the price for the greater good?” All there can be is fair and proportionate compensation and mitigation.
Even if objectors’ preferred alignment to the north of the A428 were followed, it’s not as if residents of other villages would not be affected in a similar way. A junction north of Milton might block creation of the long-planned competition rowing lake between Milton and Waterbeach. A station south of Northstowe sounds sensible, except it would offer little advantage over the Guided Busway, which also runs to Cambridge North, but from the centre of the new town. With trains calling only at Cambridge North, thousands of people would have to change there to reach Cambridge’s other stations: how will additional capacity on trains from Ely be created to accommodate them?
The southern approach currently being designed has a distinct advantage in serving both Cambridge South and the main station, where people can connect with all other rail and multiple bus services.
It should be possible for the line to run some distance north of Hauxton, Haslingfield and the Eversdens. It must be electrified from the outset, so that most or all passenger and freight locomotives using it are pollution-free and relatively quiet. There could be considerable local benefit in having a station on the west side of Comberton, next to the village college (which has almost 1,800 pupils and 250 staff). It is also an opportunity to provide new cycle and walking links alongside and across the railway line.
The need for a new east-west railway is beyond doubt. The rationale for the southern approach, though imperfect, makes sense. So, let’s work together to get the detail right.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 6 January 2021.