Smarter Cambridge Transport

Unchanged design for Cambridge South station is still not fit for purpose

How did Network Rail respond to feedback on the last Cambridge South station consultation? In most cases with, “The comments were noted and no changes have been made to the Scheme as a result.”

Smarter Cambridge Transport’s main objection was that the station’s design capacity is far too small. But Network Rail just says: “Business cases for projects funded by central Government must comply with the standard demand and growth scenarios which the DfT uses for rail industry forecasts.”

Nothing about Cambridge South station is “standard”. How many stations in the UK are located within walking distance of three, soon to be five, regional hospitals and a nationally important biomedical research campus?

Network Rail’s forecast is for “c.1.8m passenger entries and exits per annum … once the station has been open for a small number of years.” That works out at 2,500 people per day. In comparison, the pre-COVID figure for Cambridge station is 16,500. A 2018 report forecast the total number of people working on or visiting the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC) in 2031 at 45,600 per day. That didn’t take into account the CBC Vision 2050, which envisages “an additional workforce of between 14,000 and 20,000 – approximately double the staff presently working on campus.”

So, by 2040, it is likely 60,000 people will be travelling onto the site each day to work or visit someone.[1] Yet Network Rail thinks only 4% of them will use Cambridge South station. That is neither likely nor acceptable. As the access roads are already at capacity, two thirds of trips onto the campus will have to be on foot, cycle, bus or rail. Even if cycle trips double, the number of people arriving by bus and train has to be at least 25,000. Will ten times as many people arrive by bus as by train?

This is, to quote our Prime Minister, an inverted pyramid of piffle. It is also irresponsible of Network Rail to be applying for Parliamentary approval on the basis of modelling that so clearly fails a common-sense test. Please ask your MP and county councillor to challenge this before it’s too late.


[1] An additional 20,000 daily through-trips are forecast. These include people being dropped off or collected by car or ambulance, and goods and packages being collected and delivered by vans and lorries.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 14 July 2021.

Edward Leigh

Edward Leigh is the leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, chair and independent co-opted member of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, chair of the South Petersfield Residents Association, business owner, consultant, and occasional blogger about making the world and Cambridge a better place to live.