East West Rail would create ‘Great Wall of Cambridgeshire’
An embankment to carry East West Rail through South Cambridgeshire has been dubbed ‘The Great Wall’.
Campaigners and residents say the elevated line will have a massive visual impact, be noisy and lead to the destruction of farmland.
They say drawings show the embankment would run for 16km (9.9 miles) from the A428 bridge near Highfields in Caldecote to the planned grade-separated Hauxton junction.
But the East West Rail Company, which is developing the plans, say that depending on the surrounding land levels and topography, the railway would either be at ground level or on a mixture of embankments, viaducts and cuttings, over the approximately 15km distance from Highfields Caldecote to the M11 near Hauxton.
The Cambridge Approaches action group said: “Aside from the massive visual impact and the noise, this feature could split communities that have stood for a thousand years.
“It could disrupt local travel patterns for schoolchildren and adults, destroy precious farmland and cause the protected Wimpole barbastelle bats to move away.”
The group added: “The loss in local property values is already enormous and East West Rail Company’s proposed blight policy will not even scratch the surface in terms of compensation.”
The company confirmed there would be a 6.3km (3.9-mile) section of embankment from the Eversdens to Hauxton Junction.
“No single stretch of embankment would exceed 1,800 metres, and no single stretch of viaduct would exceed 330 metres. The total would be 6.3km of embankment, but not in a single stretch,” a spokesperson said.
The company said government policy does not allow for new level crossings except under exceptional circumstances, which means the line will have to go over or under roads.
The embankment will be both higher and wider than the Great Wall of China, say campaigners.
“We must also allow for flood resilience,” the East West Rail Company spokeswoman said, adding the height of the earthworks could reach approximately 10 metres in places, but said there was still work to be done as part of the engineering design process. Drawings show there will be sections that exceed 10 metres.
The spokesperson claimed the embankment “might not look like a conventional embankment at all” and could reach a width of 75 metres and “not a steep, near-vertical embankment that looks like a wall”.
The spokeswoman said the specifics would be decided during the engineering design process which will be at the next stage of development.
The embankment would split the connection between the villages of Harston and Newton, leaving pupils in Newton with no access to their local primary school in Harston by severing Station Road/Newton Road.
No decision has been made yet on whether traffic would be diverted along the B1368 to the A10 or a new road constructed connecting Newton Road to the A10 at a new junction along Royston Road.
The East West Rail Company said it would not be appropriate to prepare full engineering designs for a specific alignment at this stage, as that would pre-empt the outcome of the current consultation and “would not be a prudent use of public resources if it was undertaken for all possible engineering and alignment options”.
Campaigners say the impact on these villages would be avoided if a northern route for the £5bn railway line was fully considered.
East West Rail Company has drawn up five options for the route from Bedford to Cambridge. All of them head south from Cambourne into the new Cambridge South station. The company has so far resisted pressure for a full consultation on a route via Northstowe into Cambridge North, claiming that route is more complex, costly and less beneficial.
The £5bn line connecting Oxford to Cambridge via Milton Keynes and Bedford is due to open by 2030.
Respond to the consultation at eastwestrail.co.uk/consultation by June 9.