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Train wash not a done deal, residents told

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Plans for a train wash at the rear of properties in central Cambridge are not a done deal, residents were told at a meeting.

Protestors at Cambridge railway station who are aganst the proposed trainwash.. Picture: Keith Heppell. (30214762)
Protestors at Cambridge railway station who are aganst the proposed trainwash.. Picture: Keith Heppell. (30214762)

After protesting outside Cambridge station on Saturday (February 22), residents whose gardens back on to the railway tracks near Mill Road bridge turned out at a public meeting with Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) on Monday night.

The firm, together with other rail providers and Network Rail, plans to build the facility on railway land behind Great Eastern Street. But residents have raised concerns over the impact of noise, washing chemicals, and the size of the structure. The train wash is expected to be nine metres high, 34m long and seven metres wide, and will be 25m from the nearest property boundary.

Construction was due to begin in April, with the train wash expected to be operational by Christmas.

GTR played down noise fears and told residents they will not be harmed by chemicals, and committed to working with residents to mitigate the visual impact. But residents, together with the councillor for the area, Labour’s Dave Baigent, have escalated their concerns to Cambridge City Council, claiming the train wash is an industrial process and requires planning permission.

Some forms of development on railway land do not require planning approval, and GTR has argued that this applies to the train wash. The company says the decision to proceed without planning permission was agreed with the city council when the plans were agreed for the Mill Road bridge work in 2018.

But in a sign that the train wash is not a done deal as previously thought, a city council spokesperson said on Monday: “The council can confirm that we have asked the train operator to demonstrate, through an application, that the train wash facility is permitted development.”

GTR said it was confident the train wash could go ahead without planning permission, although Network Rail is responsible for the planning.

Cllr Baigent said: “It’s going to be a very costly project if it gets built – with public money – and we prove that it is not a permitted development.

“It makes sense that this whole thing gets put on hold.”

GTR said the train wash is being funded by the Department for Transport as part of the Thameslink Programme.

Cllr Baigent added: “The reality is Network Rail don’t know whether they have made the right decision otherwise they would have replied by now.”

GTR’s project manager, Steve Lammin, added: “Network Rail believes that this is not an industrial building. At this time, we believe – Network Rail and GTR – that this falls under permitted development.”

When repeatedly challenged by residents on what qualifies as industrial, Mr Lammin said: “I’m not going to go into what is industrial and what is not – it’s a train wash, it washes trains.”

Sean Rintel, of campaign group, Quash the Trainwash, said: “What is a train wash facility but an industrial facility erected outside the railway building for the purpose of maintaining, cleaning and washing?”

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