An initial appraisal based on approximate costs of Metro / Light Rail lines constructed in other European cities suggests that, while the cost would be substantial, it would be realistically within the grasp of the combined resources of Cambridge stakeholders, from the Greater Cambridge City Deal and Central Government, and from revenue raised from user fares.
The costs of Light Rail and rapid transit varies vary widely according to local conditions and constraints, and it is impossible to provide an accurate costing of the Cambridge Light Rail system proposed at this juncture. This said, comparisons against other examples can be useful to gain some appreciation of the order of magnitude of investment that we might be contemplating. Such costs, however, are purely indicative, and a proper costing is a complex undertaking that remains in need of preparation.
Cambridge Light Rail BOE1 ball-park summary
|U-ground (km)||O-ground (km)||Total (km)||Stops2||U-ground £M3
|Isaac Newton Line||3.27||18.49||21.76||18||164||462||626|
|Newton Line + Extensions A+B+C
|Métropole Nice Côte D’Azur||3.2||11.3||14.5||24||205||586||791|
1. Back Of Envelope – we are calling for a detailed technical and economic feasibility study, which is needed to make detailed costings.
2. The existing Cambridge Central rail station, new Cambridge North rail station and proposed new Addenbrookes rail station are also counted as Cambridge Light Rail stops.
3. Based on published cost of underground Métropole Nice Côte D’Azur Line 2, Railway Gazette (Oct 2015) and estimated cost of 3.5 m diameter tunnel in Cambridge geology of £25 M/km, doubled to £50 M/km for bi-directional tunnel.
4. Overground Light Rail cost of £20-30M /km B. Menzies (2015) quoted Cambridge News 03 Feb 2015. £25M /km used above.
The Métropole Nice Côte D’Azur Line 2 was selected for comparative purposes mainly because the length and number of stops were similar to those proposed in the Cambridge Light Rail model, and because it is a recent scheme undertaken in a modern European economy with some degree of similarity to the UK. The line is expected to be operational in 2017.
Underground costs were considered separately from overground because of their expense. Rough overground costs for Light Rail were estimated at £25M per km of track, the mid-point of a rough estimate by Bob Menzies (Director of Strategy & Development in Economy, Transport and Environment Services, Cambridgeshire County Council), which seems realistic given a recent professional costing of around £31M per km of track for a bi-directional heavy rail line in the local region (WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff 2015. Cambridge-Haverhill Corridor study. Draft rail viability technical note. Report for the Cambridgeshire County Council Nov 2015). Light Rail is generally considered less expensive to install than heavy rail, and new technologies are pressing costs downward.
Let’s put these numbers into some perspective…
|Greater Cambridge City Deal (67 M /y over 15 y)||1000||GC City Deal|
|NW Cambridge development (3000 new homes, schools, shops etc)||1000||University of Cambridge|
|A14 improvements Cambridge – Huntingdon||1500||Highways Agency 2016|
|25 km of UK motorway (2011)||480||Avg – BBC News|
|25 km Cambridge Guided Busway||181||Cambridge News 2010|
|21 km Cambridge – Haverhill double-track heavy rail line – costing appraisal||652||WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff 2015|
Meeting the costs of a Cambridge Light Rail network clearly represents a major challenge. However, when considered against other large-scale infrastructure investments in recent years, the overall cost seems within reasonable bounds, even if more detailed analysis reveals that costs are substantially more than those explored here.
The costs would undoubtedly be high, although the investment needs to be considered in the perspective of the overall benefits that would result. Cambridge Connect believes that the Cost / Benefit ratio could prove worthwhile when all of the benefits to the economy, residents, visitors, University, business, environment, heritage and for sustainability are taken into account. This is a major investment, with major potential benefits. We believe it is realistically achievable, especially if developed in manageable stages. Of course, the evidence needs to be assembled to prove this, which in itself is a substantial task requiring appropriate expertise. That is why a detailed technical and economic evaluation should be properly supported, and undertaken with urgency.