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Mayor James Palmer: I’ve urged No 10 to build Cambridge South railway station now

Opinion | Combined Authority mayor James Palmer

James Palmer. Picture: Keith Heppell
James Palmer. Picture: Keith Heppell

We don’t just need a railway station at Cambridge South now, we needed it years ago. And people rightly get angry and worried when infrastructure doesn’t keep pace with growth. Cambridge Biomedical Campus is a clear case in point.

Last week I made clear that we must untangle Cambridge South from East West Rail, and that the energy and focus of local partners should instead be directed towards getting on with delivering a station by 2023. If we wait for East West Rail, my view is we’ll be waiting for over a decade. That’s unthinkable.

I have now met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s principal transport adviser at Number 10, Andrew Gilligan, as well as Rob McIntosh, Network Rail’s new managing director for the Eastern region, to make this very point.

The good news is they are supportive of the principle of getting a station built quickly, which is very encouraging. I’m following up those positive discussions to ensure they translate into action on the ground.

In 2017, there were more than 41,000 trips each day to Cambridge Biomedical Campus. Over half of these journeys – 28,000 – were made by car.

Over the next decade, the number of visits to the biomedical campus is projected to grow by nearly a third. By 2031, it is thought there will be 67,500 visitors each day including 26,000 staff and 25,100 patients, many of whom are travelling far across the county and even further for hospital treatment or to get to work.

Without fast and reliable public transport into the area, over half of these daily trips, 46,400, are expected to be car journeys.

Bird's eye vision of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus. (19526555)
Bird's eye vision of AstraZeneca at Cambridge Biomedical Campus. (19526555)

Further delays to a station at Cambridge South also risk our projected growth. The risks of an overheated housing market and creaking infrastructure to Greater Cambridge were made all too clear in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review.

If we fail to deliver the infrastructure that will help our communities and economy grow sustainably, these companies will start to relocate. And not to elsewhere in the UK, but overseas.

East West Rail has been on the agenda since 2013. However, six years on there are still no finalised plans, confirmed timetabling or an established route into Cambridge, meaning there is no way we should be relying on a target delivery date of 2027.

Having long made the case for better connectivity east and west in in England, I am supportive of the principles of East West Rail. However, you only have to look at HS2, rightly currently under review, to realise that nothing should be taken as guaranteed.

We are currently undertaking a feasibility study to determine what is possible with regards to timetabling at a new station. But I’m clear in my meetings with Network Rail and the government that East-West Rail is now not in my immediate thinking – we need a station at Cambridge South and we are going to build one.

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‘We need Cambridge South railway station long before East West Rail’ says mayor James Palmer

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