East-West railway background

Many Shelford residents will be aware of the new railway line that is being built between Oxford and Ipswich.

Parts of the route use existing tracks, upgraded where necessary, whilst other sections are entirely new railways. The Western section between Oxford and Bedford is almost finished, and the Eastern section from Cambridge to Ipswich has not yet begun. The Central section, an entirely new railway, between Bedford and Cambridge is the part that affects our area.

The railway builder is East West Rail Co (EWR Co) [1} who consulted in 2019 on various approaches for the railway into Cambridge, and have selected a southern approach, Option E.

From Cambourne Option E drops down in a wide band towards the Shelfords, to join the main line between Trumpington and a point approximately one mile south of Great Shelford. A northern approach, which many feel would much better serve the purpose of a dedicated east-west railway, was rejected by EWR Co with seemingly little consideration.

Option E 'arc' encompasses many villages to the south west of Cambridge. The final route detail within Option E is being chosen by EWR Co at the moment and another consultation is planned for the first months of 2021.

Many issues have arisen, including where and how the new line will join the main line in the Shelford area which is likely to be affected to some degree. All trains on the new route from the west would then pass through a proposed new station close to Addenbrookes [2] and then through Cambridge Central, before turning off towards Newmarket. Six passenger trains in each direction are planned, plus one freight train per hour. The campaign group 'Cambridge Approaches' (CA) [3] has been told by EWR Co that the track throughout the route is being built to freight train standards. It is also clear that the freight traffic will be 1/2 mile long 'Intermodal' trains [4] from Felixstowe Container Port [5]. The port handles 36 trains in each direction each day, which are routed via Ely, or North London towards the west. These routes are running at full capacity, and the new east-west route is expected to handle an increasing number of trains as Felixstowe Port expands, and will almost certainly run through the night.

EWR Co have not explained how Cambridge Central will cope with the large increase in trains. In light of reports making it clear that the existing station runs close to capacity at peak times, and that more frequent trains are proposed for Kings Lynn and the Liverpool Street line, it is inevitable that the tracks south of Cambridge will become increasingly busy. In the light of this it would seem sensible to reconsider the northern approach option, a scheme for which was put forward by CamBedRailRoad [6]. Even more sensible would be a completely new track to the north by-passing Cambridge altogether and following existing transport corridors of the A428 and the A14.

Please look at the links for more information.

[1] https://eastwestrail.co.uk/the-project/central-section

[2] https://cambridgesouthconsultation.com/how-the-station-could-look/

[3] http://cambridgeapproaches.org/

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1JnLoe7TGo

[5] https://www.portoffelixstowe.co.uk/#/about

[6] http://www.cambedrailroad.org/

Steve Edmondson