CamBedRailRoad: 'There's another way to connect Oxford to Cambridge'
PUBLISHED: 12:01 22 September 2018 | UPDATED: 16:18 27 September 2018
A proposal for part of a major new railway line being built from Sandy to Shepreth has led to the formation of a new think tank which has come up with an alternative route.
Network Rail announced the route of the central section of East West Rail Link, which will connect Oxford to Cambridge and onto East Anglia, would go via Sandy back in 2016.
NR is now working on a number of possible route options within the preferred C-corridor – from Bedford to Sandy, Shepreth and onto Cambridge – and the preferred route is expected to be announced by the end of the year.
The East West Rail proposals have set alarm bells ringing through villages in South Cambs and Central Beds, and led to the formation of the CambBedRailRoad group – a community-led think tank of volunteers from the two counties.
The CBRR have come up with their own preferred option, which would go from Bedford to St Neots – connecting new developments along the way – and coming into Cambridge North and onto Cambridge.
CBRR chairman Sebastian Kindersley told this paper: “We are looking for our alternative northern route to be treated equally with the routes that are currently being promoted.
“We’ve been having public meetings in various communties because one of the things we have discovered is that there is very little public awareness – residents are not aware of this threat.
“We’ve had 11 public meetings and a number of private meetings, and people have been extremely positive.
“We’ve presented to Cambourne, and we are promoting the need for a new station there. Residents accept this will probably mean further development, and they were straight forward about it – saying at the moment we have to get in our cars, and it would be great if we could get on the train. So from that perspective it’s been very positive.” The C-corridor routes affect land in areas including Meldreth, Bassingbourn, Litlington, the Hatleys, Gamlingay, Sutton and Potton.
Mr Kindersley said: “There appears to be no social benefit and very little economic benefits to any of the C-corridor routes, because all they do is run from approximately Sandy to approximately Shepreth – not connecting with new developments.
“It brings disbenefit. You’ve got the noise, but also if the line crosses roads other than main roads, like the A1198, they will be closed. Local lanes people use will just be closed because they’re not going to put the trains underground.
“Our campaign is a positive one. It’s not saying don’t build it in the C-corridor, what it’s saying is please consider the north corridor in the same way you’re going to do all the research on the C-corridor.
“We have had a big meeting at the Gamlingay Ecohub for Sutton parish, Dunton, Eyeworth and Wrestlingworth, and there was not a single word of dissent.
“If people have got specialist skills they think may be helpful, we are extremely enthusiastic about volunteers, so any help offered is very welcome.
“My experience over the years is that you have to sometimes fight for what is clearly a good idea. We’ve been going out to the people because we think this is a good idea.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have infrastructure that is going to be useful for local people, useful for the economy both nationally and locally, with as little disruption to local communities as possible. What a brilliant thing to be able to link up new developments – Wixams at Bedford, Northstowe, and Cambourne so those people don’t need to get in their cars to go to work or school.
“And at the same time you’re delivering something that means a professor at Oxford who wants to chat with a professor at Cambridge can get on a train and be there two hours later – it seems to be a win-win solution.
“We are fighting hard to get it in front of the people who make the decision because, although the link won’t be built for five or 10 years, it is being decided upon at the moment.
“It’s not about crossing that bridge when we come to it – that bridge is now.”
CBBR will be presenting its ideas at Shepreth Village Hall on September 25 at 7.30pm, and at Guilden Morden Village Hall on September 27 starting at 8pm.*
This paper contacted Network Rail who declined to comment.
*This is a change to the initial story we ran, 8pm for Guilden Morden is correct.