CamBedRailRoad: East West Rail proposed route is partial victory for common sense

There has been high praise for the CamBedRailRoad campaign group following the news, which visited p

There has been high praise for the CamBedRailRoad campaign group following the news, which visited parishes across the Crow area - including Shepreth Village Hall as pictured. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The group lobbying for the central section of the East West Rail Link to follow a northern route has hailed last week’s announcement that the option proposed would go through Cambourne rather than our South Cambs villages as a “partial victory for common sense”.

The routes that would affect our villages. Picture: CBRR

The routes that would affect our villages. Picture: CBRR - Credit: Archant

Thinktank CamBedRailRoad was formed in late 2017 after the Crow broke the story about a proposed new town at Bassingbourn should the section of the East West Rail Link connecting Bedford to Cambridge run through our area.

The group relentlessly pushed for their 'northern route' option through Cambourne to be considered alongside the other routes proposed by East West Rail Company - three of which ran through Bassingbourn and surrounds, including nearby Bedfordshire villages, with a stop at Bassingbourn. These routes would also incorporate land on or near the historic Wimpole Estate.

CBRR's proposal was to follow the A428, between Bedford and Cambridge - accommodating new developments including Cambourne, and reaching the city via Cambridge North.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, announced EWRC's preferred option on Thursday last week. It links existing Bedford and Cambridge stations with communities in Cambourne and the area north of Sandy and south of St Neots - with the overall scheme connecting Oxford to Cambridge.

The routes that would affect our villages. Picture: CBRR

The routes that would affect our villages. Picture: CBRR - Credit: Archant

Retired civil engineer Brian Bell, co-founder of CBRR, said: "This is a partial victory for common sense - CBRR's cost-effective route into Cambridge North would complete that victory."

So far in its campaign, CBRR has amassed 3,000 signatures in its petition to the transport secretary, saw more than £60,000 pledged by supporters to mount a legal challenge against the Bassingbourn routes in the High Court if needed, and had thousands of residents attend more than 35 town and parish presentations.

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CBRR made submissions in 2019, during the consultation period, over the selection of a route so that it would serve current and proposed population centres and provide fast and sustainable local transport options, while protecting the environment.

Supporters of the group have praised the efforts of all involved.

Edward Rudd said: "Fantastic news. Common sense has prevailed! A huge thanks to everybody involved, especially Anthony [Browne, MP], and everybody at CBRR."

Micky Astor commented: "Well done co-founder Philip Paxman. Congratulations to you and your team - and much thanks!"

Deborah Marriage, from Bassingbourn, said: "Relieved and delighted that the right decision for South Cambridgeshire has been made and the railway will go via Cambourne, not Bassingbourn. There is no doubt that the hard work of the CBRR team had a significant influence on the decision. Well done CBRR!"

Chris Jennings said: "Congratulations to all involved in lobbying to get the railroad along the route via St Neots, Cambourne and onto Cambridge. All the hard work you and the team have put in has certainly paid dividends."

Stuart Rye said: "The Shingay-cum-Wendy Benefits Company is delighted that its offer of financial support on behalf of the local community for the challenge to EWR in the courts has contributed to this happy outcome and preserving our countryside."

Victoria McKenna commented: "I cannot tell you how relieved we are, and all of us in Wrestlingworth. The initial East West Rail plan seemed to be so badly thought out (or not really thought out at all). You have all done such a fantastic job, I know how much hard work went into the whole CBRR project, it has all paid off and now the railway will be sited where it can benefit people in the county."

Eleanor Sclater said: "Sanity has prevailed."

Heather Williams said: "A station at Cambourne was always the most sensible option, it will be a great benefit in that area as opposed to Bassingbourn. Many have worked incredibly hard to achieve this across the political and non-political spectrum, and I am extremely pleased with the outcome."

Kate and Chris Ware said: This is wonderful news and a massive relief. Many thanks to you and your team for your tireless efforts, we are enormously appreciative."

CBRR was represented by Leigh Day which advised the group on potential legal grounds should a route be selected that would blight the countryside unnecessarily.

After the announcement, Carol Day from the law firm said: "We are delighted to have assisted in this successful campaign against the most harmful route options. The lack of assessment of the environmental impacts of the southern routes left those options open to potential legal challenge. The selection of a route that did not risk adverse effects on the Wimpole and Eversden Special Area of Conservation will be a relief for many local residents. However, the campaign continues for a final route that would maximise sustainability while minimising environmental damage."

The next stage will see the government make a final decision on whether to take the project forward.