A Letter about the East West Railway from a Resident of Haslingfield
Dear Fellow Villager,
East West Rail (EWR) is planning to build their railway through the rural villages of South Cambridgeshire from Cambourne to Great Shelford. This will irreversibly change the character and peace of local villages. Other route options would be more appropriate and less invasive but have been discarded by EWR without good reason. Time is running out for us to have our say. This requires us all to take action.
The main reasons EWR chose our area for the route are that it was the most popular option among the consultation responses and because it apparently provides the “best opportunities for the environment”. But this route would cut through peaceful countryside earmarked by the 2018 Local Plan for preservation and low population growth, rather than serving new towns where there is growth planned. As it is a National Infrastructure Project, local plans are being ignored.
Due to the MRAO radio telescopes, the railway will either skirt close to Barton to the north, or close to Haslingfield and Harlton to the south. The railway will likely be two tracks, lined with tall safety fencing. The route may involve an ugly, deep cutting through Money/Chapel Hill; EWR has said it is unlikely that they will bore a tunnel.
The new railway will offer no benefits to our community while causing pollution and irreparable damage to our communities, vital farms and local wildlife. Besides this, their business case simply does not add up!
Noise & air pollution. The line will carry both freight (to and from Felixstowe) and passengers. It is expected that several freight trains will pass every hour, throughout the day and especially at night. No upper limit on their frequency has been guaranteed. These noisy, heavy trains will bring incessant noise, vibration and pollution to our villages.
Damaged community. The route would sever many public footpaths, bridleways and even some minor roads, possibly including roads linking villages with close ties like Harlton and Haslingfield, Harston and Newton, Toft and Comberton. EWR will likely only build bridges over major A roads to minimise costs; the rest will be lost.
Reduced farm productivity. This area of East Anglia is vital for wheat production for the whole of Britain due to its high grade soil. Predictions of rising sea level will threaten the fens over time, so it is even more important that this land is protected for farming for future national food security. One of our local farmers has described how the railway would damage his livelihood if his land is cut in two, where field access may then become impossible. Where road bridges are introduced to cross the railway, they would need to be over four metres wide to accommodate the largest combine harvesters. Also, rabbits living on the track can damage adjacent crops by up to 80%, and farmers are powerless to do anything about it. See www.cambridgeapproaches.org.
Endangered wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts are concerned about the damage this will do to our local wildlife. Flora and fauna, such as the “near threatened” Barbastelle bats in Wimpole and Eversden Woods and the rare Man Orchids in the Haslingfield old quarry are in danger. The foraging routes of animals such as badgers and muntjac, used for generations, will be blocked.
Questionable business case. While it’s a good idea to get freight off the roads and onto rails, there are better route options. There is a far better business case for a route that follows the path of the A428 (see www.cambedrailroad.org for details). This route would provide a station to the north of Cambourne (preferred by their council) instead of to the south, and could serve the fast-growing and planned towns along its route (e.g. Northstowe) from where residents can currently only commute by road. This route would conveniently lead to Cambridge North station. Following this transport corridor would reduce the need to cut minor roads and be the best way of satisfying all transport modes, with the least environmental cost.
EWR Co. has selected the route through our area because their cost-benefit analysis implicitly assumes a large increase in population density in our area. They have failed to recognise that there are existing local plans for high growth to the north of Cambridge, but for low growth in our area. Instead they are basing their choice on a wild assumption that there will be 30,000 new houses built in the Cambridge to Oxford arc every year until 2050. In contrast, the local plan anticipates 1,000 new houses annually in South Cambs.
It is not too late to ask EWR to reconsider. Over the next couple of months, decisions about the route are being made. Currently EWR believe residents of Haslingfield and Harlton are happy with the route passing through our area because they have not heard sufficient voices against it.
Here is what you can do:
- Write to MPs and councillors. Since EWR is a public body, ensuring politicians are aware of public opinion really makes a difference. Every email and letter counts, as long as it’s personalised and explains why this route is objectively bad, not just distressing to you (“NIMBY”), otherwise it will be ignored. See www.cambridgeapproaches.org for suggestions. Here are some ideas of whom to write to:
- Anthony Browne MP at firstname.lastname@example.org (include how you heard about the EWR and whether you felt adequately consulted by the government; Mr Browne is concerned about that.) Postal: Broadway House, 149-151 St Neots Road, Hardwick, CB23 7QJ.
- Leader of South Cambs District Council Bridget Smith at Cllr.BridgetSmith@scambs.gov.uk. Bridget is very concerned about the environment and about keeping the rurality and individuality of the villages, in accordance with the Local Plan. Postal: Maypole House, 39 Church Street, Gamlingay, Sandy, Beds, SG19 3JJ.
- Roger Hickford, County Councillor and Chairman of the Greater Cambridge Partnership at email@example.com.
- Kevin Cuffley, County Councillor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tony Mason, District Councillor at email@example.com.
- Ian Sollom, District Councillor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- David Revell, Parish Councillor at email@example.com (for Haslingfield).
- Isabel Robinson, Parish Councillor at firstname.lastname@example.org (for Harlton).If writing by email, you can use the same message for them all. If you only have time for one letter, the best option is Anthony Browne MP.
- Write to East West Rail to express your concerns at email@example.com. However, EWR is typically taking 3 months to respond to residents and so phoning on 0330 1340067, as well as sending your email, would be more effective.
- Please subscribe (free!) to www.cambridgeapproaches.org at the bottom of their ‘Supporters’ page. Cambridge Approaches aims to hold EWR to account on behalf of our local communities and identify better routes. An increase in subscribers will boost their clout with politicians and EWR. This group will also keep you informed with all the latest developments and important articles. Their ‘Supporters’ page has a link to a webinar they recently ran, which explains the current situation clearly.
- Cambridge Approaches is specifically looking for voluntary expertise in the following areas: civil engineering (preferably railway engineering); quantity surveying; environmental noise; ecology, local history & archaeology; hydrology; computer aided design; legal & land issues; graphics; environmentalists; publicity and generalists to help push the group forwards.
- Please print out the poster on the Cambridge Approaches website, and put it up in your window. This demonstrates your support and raises awareness. You will find it if you click on the downwards arrow of the ‘Supporters’ section.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and taking action.
Warm wishes, from a Haslingfield resident