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The five routes East West Rail could take through countryside from Cambourne to Cambridge


By Gemma Gardner


Trains could take what some have called a “tortuous route” through the countryside from Cambourne to Cambridge as part of the final stage of East West Rail.

East West Rail Company proposed routes (6966501)
East West Rail Company proposed routes (6966501)

Five route options for the central section of the East West Rail scheme, which runs from Oxford to Cambridge, have been published.

It could mean new stations at Cambourne, Bassingbourn, Bedford, St Neots and Tempsford.

But concerns have been raised about the scheme’s environmental impact, with routes passing close to the RSPB The Lodge in Sandy, the National Trust’s Wimpole Hall, listed buildings and scheduled monuments.

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s deputy leader, said: “The new railway line is important to the area as we need genuine alternatives to the car to help people get around for work and leisure.

“It also opens up a huge part of the country to our residents where no direct and fast public transport links have been available.”

The council wrote to the government in September to call for the environment to be given full and thorough consideration when selecting the route.

Cllr Van de Weyer added: “The information published raises many questions for me, such as how the wide areas they have provided as potential routes will be narrowed down? What level crossings will be needed? Will any roads need to be closed and where will stations be located?

“We have a huge opportunity to deliver a fantastic transport link while also making sure that the route delivers a positive environmental legacy too.

“We want South Cambridgeshire to be green to its core and will be making sure the importance of the highest environmental standards is made crystal clear.”

Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer of South Cambridgeshire District Council. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Aidan Van de Weyer of South Cambridgeshire District Council. Picture: Keith Heppell

Initial cost estimates for the different options vary from around £1.9billion to £3billion.

A public consultation over the plans has been launched, which runs until March 11. The consultation document said each route presented opportunities and challenges, which it needed to consider to make a “balanced decision and ensure the government’s investment in East West Rail provides value for money”.

Of the five routes, four link to the existing station at Sandy. Three routes connect with Bassingbourn to the south west of Cambridge, with the remaining two linking to Cambourne.

A connection with Sandy station would provide an opportunity to link the new route to the existing East Coast Main Line.

In three of the route options, the central section would start at a new railway station, Bedford South rather than the existing Bedford Midland station. An interchange with the Midland Main Line at Bedford is also being considered.

All five routes will approach Cambridge from the south and are expected to result in journey times of between 76 and 83 minutes from Oxford to Cambridge.

But the route selection has been met with disappointment from campaign group CamBedRailRoad – it supported an option that entered Cambridge from the north.

Its chairman Sebastian Kindersley said: “East West Rail Company appears to have selected low cost and obviously low benefit options which deliver very little indeed to local people and which now present a considerable planning blight – up to 15km wide – on communities across Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire. Meanwhile, East West Rail Company ignores the needs of 70,000 people immediately to the north and west of Cambridge, with more development planned.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get a major piece of national infrastructure right and must not be squandered.

“We will be contributing to this non-statutory consultation and making our argument forcefully. We will focus on taking up EWR’s significant open invitation to be persuaded that there are operational, technical, planning, programming, environmental and financial advantages to be gained by entry from the north – even EWR agrees ‘it is not too late to see sense’.”

East West Rail Ltd said it had assessed the route options based on transport user benefits including improved journey times, lower fares and less road congestion; housing growth opportunities; capital and operating costs and the environmental impacts of the new line.

In the autumn budget last year the government announced £20m of funding for the East West Rail Company to develop a strategic outline business case for the central section.

South Cambridgeshire District Council will respond after debating it at a cabinet meeting on March 6.

To find out more about the Cambridge to Oxford railway proposals and routes for consultation, visit eastwestrail.co.uk/haveyoursay.

Five route options

Route A: Bedford South, Sandy (relocated south), Cambridge (via Bassingbourn) - cost £1.9bn

New Bassingbourn station located at either the MOD site, or north or south of it.

Journey time of 76 minutes from Oxford to Cambridge. The route would run close to Sandy Warren SSSI, Biggleswade Common and the RSPB nature reserve, The Lodge. Could impact Wimpole Hall avenue.

Route B: Bedford South, Sandy (relocated)/Tempsford area/south of St Neots, Cambourne and Cambridge - cost £2.4bn

Journey time of 80 minutes from Oxford to Cambridge

Location of new Cambourne station to be determined

Route could connect to the West Anglia Main Line near Great Shelford and serve a Cambridge South station. Route would cross a number of watercourses and flood zones.

Route C: Bedford South, Tempsford area, Sandy, and Cambridge (via Bassingbourn) - cost £2.5bn

Journey time of 80 minutes from Oxford to Cambridge.New Bassingbourn station located at either the MOD site, or north or south of it.

The route would run close to the same wildlife areas as Route A. Could impact Wimpole as well as listed buildings and monuments.

Route D: Bedford Midland, Tempsford area, Sandy and Cambridge via Bassingbourn - cost £2.6bn

Journey time of 83 minutes from Oxford to Cambridge.

New Bassingbourn station located at either the MOD site, or north or south of it.

The route would run close to same wildlife sites as Route A and could also impact on the Wimpole Hall avenue. Potential impacts on listed buildings, monuments and reserves.

Route E: Bedford Midland, Tempsford area/south of St Neots, Cambourne and Cambridge - cost £3bn

Journey time of 82 minutes from Oxford to Cambridge.Potential impacts on listed buildings, scheduled monuments, nature reserves, Eversden and Wimpole SAC, ancient woodland and SSSIs would depend on the precise alignment selected

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