Reminder that the EWR Consultation ends 9th June 2021
Barton Parish Councillors attended the East West Rail “South Cambridgeshire” local councillors meeting Thursday 27 May 2021. The meeting, hosted by EWR, lasted more than 90 minutes and started with a small presentation followed by a Q&A session. The main topics covered were the rationale behind choosing the route south into Cambridge over the route north; the height and length of embankments and via ducts; compensation; diesel over electric. The chat was live and provided an insight into the audiences views on the project, which, needless to say, was anti EWR and the southern route.
EWR tried to justify the requirement for four tracks into Cambridge north when two tracks seem to be fine through Harston by claiming that there would be time-table clashes coming in from the north which are not there in the south on the Kings Cross line. EWR promised to provide the detail on this point. Obviously if four tracks are not required for the northern route, then the cost would be lower, property would not need to be destroyed, and new bridges would not be required.
EWR claim that new technology would probably be ready in the next nine years to replace diesel trains and avoid electrifying the line. However, they have not dismissed using electric trains if they have to. Hydrogen trains are being trialled in Germany and Hitachi plan to trial a battery powered train in the UK next year. So it is possible that diesel will not be required at all by 2030 nor electrifying the line become a requirement.
On embankments, EWR say that they will be working to minimise costs in the detailed design and so will reduce embankment heights where they can. I think everyone should be aware that a track at ground level will reduce noise and be visually less intrusive, but could be at the cost of cutting footpaths, permissive routes and bridleways. With embankments these could be maintained as it is easier to run a tunnel through an embankment as it is being built rather than bridges over the railway. Noise has to be kept to 55 dB as required by the environmental agency. However, the World Health Organization suggest a night-time limit should be 45 dB to protect health.
EWR will review the trenching and culvert system suggested by CamBedRoadRail. This is an alternative to embankments and viaducts across floodplains. It is likely that this scheme will be dismissed on cost, both capital and operational. CBRR pushed for this to be studied though and EWR said they would look again.
The business case for going south rather than north was also discussed. EWR talked about the importance of supporting jobs growth in south Cambridge around the medical campus. This was questioned as details and plans are not available yet.
(In a separate meeting, Chris Heaton-Harris said that the route into Cambridge was consulted on a few years ago and that the route would be in to Cambridge South and that this was vital to support companies moving or that have moved on to the Medical Campus. It seems like a done deal from his point of view!)