East-West Rail Consultation
Thank you for your feedback on our response to the consultation on plans for East-West Rail, which aims to provide direct rail services between Oxford and Cambridge. The plans could have a significant impact on our community as the preferred route passes just to the south of Wintringham.
Love's Farm Community Association's response is given below. This represents the broad consensus expressed by residents present at the community meeting on Wednesday 19th May and feedback subsequently received. Of course, it's impossible to speak for every resident and we also encouraged residents to submit their own views to the consultation.
We are extremely grateful to Lara Davenport-Ray who compiled our response.
LFCA's Response to the Consultation
Love’s Farm Community Association (LFCA) would like to express our concerns arising from the public consultation published by the East-West Rail Company (EWR) on 31 March 20211. The Love’s Farm housing estate is located on the eastern edge of St Neots, Cambridgeshire.
LFCA believes that there is no need for a new train line between St Neots and Cambridge. By the time it is delivered, such massive public expenditure could quickly be made redundant by advances in public transportation technology. While we support encouraging the public to move to public transportation, we envisage imminent changes in the transportation practices of Cambridgeshire. Widespread use of electrified buses, trackless trams, autonomous vehicles and driverless cars are on the horizon.
The four proposed “St Neots South/Tempsford” station locations also create public transportation obstacles2. Assuming that a reduction in personal car use is a priority, St Neots residents would need to use a train, bus or cycle to access the East-West rail line. A journey directly from St Neots to Cambridge (or Bedford) could more easily be accomplished using a bus along a newly upgraded A428/A421. A new train line between St Neots and Cambridge would be an expensive public transportation solution with very little benefit to St Neots residents.
Should the East-West Rail project between St Neots and Cambridge go ahead, we urge EWR to publicly commit to a fully carbon-neutral project. During the current climate crisis, it is important to consider all aspects of the build process, selection of building materials and any loss of woodland.
While LFCA believes that this project is unnecessary, and the ecological impact of alignments 6 and 8 are concerning, we are particularly concerned about the height of viaducts included in alignments 1, 2 and 9. This specifically applies to the proposed route along the eastern edge of the Wintringham housing development3.
These proposed alignments lay well outside the Route E alignment area selected by EWR following the 2019 consultation4. Regardless of this discrepancy, Route E alignments 1 and 9 have now been identified as EWR’s “emerging preferences.”5 We were surprised to see them included in the consultation documents of 2021. We believe that this particular section of the proposed Route E deserves further time for consultation and investigation.
Selection of alignments 1, 2 or 9 would place the track alongside thousands of homes planned to be delivered in the next two decades on both the Wintringham and Love’s Farm East developments. Our objections to this route relate to the potential noise and visual pollution suffered by nearby residents, as well as the visual impact on the unspoilt countryside beyond.
The St Neots Neighbourhood Plan6 outlines significant population growth east of the East Coast Mainline. These new residents will be most significantly affected by noise and visual pollution from a nearby rail line built at a great height. Our Neighbourhood Plan also encourages a “soft edge” of design and landscaping, from countryside to urban, as a “gateway” into the town from the east7. A junction of the upgraded A428/A421, existing A428 and rail viaduct will create a visually industrial approach to our town.
The proposed viaduct along the eastern edge of the Wintringham development8 to enable the line to cross over the existing A428, has a design height of 13.9m above ground level in the consultation documents9. This will cause significant visual pollution to the surrounding residential areas and countryside. LFCA believes this height to be excessive to the needs of crossing the existing A428. In order to reduce visual pollution, we urge EWR to review the specifications for this viaduct. We believe that a height of 6m above road level is sufficient.
The noise pollution created by using alignments 1, 2 or 9 would significantly impact thousands of residents (and future residents) of the Wintringham and Love’s Farm East communities. The route maps provided in the consultation illustrate the close proximity to both parcels approved for new residential housing10. Occupants would be exposed to increased noise levels from passing trains. The peak noise level will be centred at the proposed 13.9m high viaduct, with residential plots located below.
The use of diesel rail stock, rather than electrification, will also increase the level of noise pollution. Electrification is significantly preferable when considering carbon-neutrality, but also improves the quality of life experienced by those who live near a rail line. According to the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail published on 20 April 2021, “Britain’s railways need to modernise if they are to become the backbone of a cleaner, greener public transport network.”11 The Plan goes on to say that “battery and hydrogen-powered trains will be trialled for passenger routes where conventional electrification is an uneconomic solution, in order to support the government’s ambition to remove diesel-only trains from the network by 2040.”12 In light of this government guidance, it is difficult to rationalise building a new train line designed for diesel rail stock.
We believe that noise pollution will be further exacerbated by the transport of freight along the line. Although EWR have indicated that the proposed routes are currently intended for passenger trains, the inclusion of passing loops along the proposed line indicate that freight use is envisaged at some point in the future. A possible route link from Cambridge onward to the east coast port of Harwich would certainly make this line attractive for freight transport.
In conclusion, LFCA reiterates our view that there is no need for a new train line between St Neots and Cambridge. Should the project proceed, we would like further details as to how EWR has arrived at “emerging preference” alignments well outside the Route E path selected by EWR following the 2019 consultation. We also urge EWR to dedicate further time and study to the concerns we have raised for proposed alignments along the eastern edge of the Wintringham development.13
1. “2021 Public Consultation,” East West Rail Company, 31 March 2021, https://eastwestrail.co.uk/consultation
2. “2021 Public Consultation,” East West Rail Company, 31 March 2021, p215, https://tinyurl.com/2mhkzf93
3. Section D, alignments 1,2 & 9, between core section alignment 1 chainage 22+000 and 25+000
4. “Preferred Route Option Report,” East West Rail Company, 30 January 2020, p11, https://tinyurl.com/fh5xwa2b
5. “2021 Public Consultation,” East West Rail Company, 31 March 2021, p23, https://tinyurl.com/2mhkzf93
6. St Neots Neighbourhood Plan, ‘made’ by Huntingdonshire District Council on 24 February 2016, https://tinyurl.com/33nrf7k
7. St Neots Neighbourhood Plan, ‘made’ by Huntingdonshire District Council on 24 February 2016, p24, https://tinyurl.com/33nrf7k
8. Section D, alignments 1,2 & 9, between core section alignment 1 chainage 24+000 and 24+600
9. “Alignment 1 (dark blue): St Neots South Option A station to Cambourne North station,” East West Rail Company, 31 March 2021, https://tinyurl.com/3dsc59x9
10. “Route Alignment 1 - section between Great Barford and Eltisley”, East West Rail Company, 31 March 2021, https://tinyurl.com/32bp9wcz
11. “Great British Railways: The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail”, Department of Transportation, 20 April 2021, p86, https://tinyurl.com/52e8hrju
12. “Great British Railways: The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail”, Department of Transportation, 20 April 2021, p88, https://tinyurl.com/52e8hrju
13. Section D, alignments 1,2 & 9, between core section alignment 1 chainage 22+000 and 25+000