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East West Rail consultation has placed us on mute, say South Cambridgeshire residents

Residents across South Cambridgeshire feel the East West Rail Company has placed them ‘on mute’ during its consultation over plans for a new railway.

They say the consultation has been “one-sided” and “wholly unfair” with virtual events denying residents the chance for follow-up questions.

A poster produced by the campaigners
A poster produced by the campaigners

Questions asked at the virtual events are submitted via a web chat function, with attendees placed on mute throughout the meeting.

“This is not a democratic process. Residents deserve a right to reply. Putting us on mute is not democracy. It feels so wrong to be silenced on a project that is so big,” said Anna Jefferson, whose home in Haslingfield backs directly onto the field where East West Rail’s 10 metre-high embankment, dubbed the ‘Great Wall’, is proposed.

She continued: “It is on our minds all of the time. It’s sort of like waiting for a diagnosis of something.”

Anna said many people feel like the consultation deadline is looming over them and added that the East West Rail Company is taking too long to respond to questions posed via the consultation’s live-chat function.

The residents are calling for a two-way dialogue between them and the company, as well as a balanced and fair consideration of alternative routes.

They want “bold, ambitious and forward-thinking transportation plans, not cheap and easy solutions” and “fair and inclusive treatment of impacted individuals, not limited eligibility conditions for compensation”.

The East West Rail Company’s consultation over proposals for a line between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge ends on Wednesday, June 9.

A spokesperson for the company said: “We are holding this consultation precisely because we want to give communities a voice to help us shape East West Rail at an early stage, and the surest way to make sure your voice is heard is to respond to the consultation, as thousands of people have done already.

“Our webinars are a great way for us to explain the key areas of consultation in more detail and to answer frequently asked questions. For those who have specific questions or comments that they want to discuss with our experts directly, then in addition to being able to call us, we’ve also been hosting live-chat events right through the consultation period.

East West Rail Company's map of the potential routes from Bedford to Cambridge, on which it is consulting. Map: East West Rail Company
East West Rail Company's map of the potential routes from Bedford to Cambridge, on which it is consulting. Map: East West Rail Company

“In fact, we recently increased the number of these events to make sure everyone who wants to participate can do so, and we’ve still got a few more planned this week, for anyone who wants to join.”

Visit eastwestrail.co.uk by June 9 to have your say.

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