Aidan Van de Weyer, Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said,
“The creation of a new railway line from Oxford to Cambridge is very welcome. It has the potential to be a new green strategic route that improves links with other parts of the country and helps change the focus of the railway network away from London. In conjunction with the new Cambridge South station, it will allow the sustainable expansion of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.
“It is very disappointing that there have been further delays in making progress to the next stage of consultation on East West Rail (EWR).
“The consultation on route alignments had been expected by the end of 2020, but it only now looks likely to happen three months’ later. The aspiration stated by government to get the line operational in the mid 2020s has gone out of the window. I doubt that the line will be completed before 2030. For every extra year, the benefits that we will get will be reduced. EWR should be helping us achieve the carbon reductions that the 2050 net zero target requires.
“These delays are also causing huge concern among residents who are likely to be affected. The many thousands of residents who live within the selected corridor have now had over a year living with this uncertainty hanging over their heads.
“People living to the south and south west of Cambridge are understandably frustrated that the previous consultation only included one approach to Cambridge from Cambourne via the South. Given the concerns about the limited amount of work done on the northern approach before it was dismissed, the process that EWR has followed would appear to be flawed. I would welcome further work by EWR to address this.
“But now residents to the north of Cambridge, who have never been included in the the previous rounds of consultation spread over many years, are suddenly faced with the prospect of a railway line coming through their communities, which are already subject to the strains of development. They must not be kept in the dark by EWR any longer. If there is any suggestion that a northern approach is being looked at seriously by EWR and government, then affected residents must be allowed to have their say with the full information about the impacts of the line. It is far from clear that a route via the north of Cambridge will be able to maximise the benefits of the line.
“EWR must also provide the residents of Huntingdonshire, South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge with much more information about how it will deal with the impacts of the line. Essential local connections - footpaths, bridleways, minor roads - must be respected. Noise and vibration effects must be carefully understood. Pollution and carbon emissions must be kept to a minimum, ideally be electrifying the line.
“When EWR does launch the consultation, I urge all residents to look carefully at the information provided, engage with your elected representatives and neighbours, and make your voice heard by EWR and government.”