Heavy rail (for the non-cognoscenti, read ‘train’) connections are vital for business, science, technology, universities, culture and communities. They play an extremely important role linking Cambridge to London and the wider UK, and to airports for international connections.
As such, the heavy rail network is rightly a key influence on the design of the Cambridge Light Rail network, and Cambridge Central Station is placed at the heart of Cambridge Connect’s Isaac Newton Line. Moreover, Extension A also includes the Cambridge North station, now under construction and due to become operational in 2017. The Isaace Newton Line also recognises there are proposals in train for a third heavy rail station at Addenbrookes, which could provide better connections to London and elsewhere from the hospital, Biomedical Campus, Babraham, Hinxton, Granta Park Campus, Trumpington and other destinations. Much of the Isaac Newton Line from the Cambridge Central Station – Trumpington follows the current Guided Busway, which itself utilises the former Cambridge to Bedford rail alignment.
Extension B extends due east to Cherry Hinton and Fulbourn, and the Light Rail line might be possible parallel to, or even sharing, the operational heavy rail line that already exists in this direction. This could serve residents in Cherry Hinton and also the significant high tech employment hub in Fulbourn where businesses such as ARM, Syngenta, Illumina, Scientia and others are located. If Light Rail is not feasible for practical or economic reasons, an alternative might be to establish a new heavy rail station in the same vicinity at Fulbourn, close to the location of a new Park & Ride.
Cambridge Connect welcomes the plans for an East – West rail link to Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford, and this needs to be built into future strategies. The Chancellor announced in the 2016 Budget the Government’s intention to support the National Infrastructure Commission in developing the case for the East – West rail corridor. Specifically, the Chancellor announced detailed Terms of Reference in his letter of 16 March 2016 to the Rt Hon. the Lord Adonis, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, for the required preparatory work, including:
- “…[to review] options for the long term infrastructure priorities to unlock growth, jobs and housing within the Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford corridor over the next 30 years.
- “Review the economic case for investment in the Oxford to Cambridge corridor – including key planned infrastructure such as East-West Rail and Expressway;
- “Identify infrastructure constraints that are impeding: economic growth; sustainable travel; quality of life; and the delivery of new housing;
- “Identify the environmental assets, and opportunities for sustainable growth, within the corridor.”
The Chancellor’s Terms of Reference went further to state that at a second stage of work to be completed by Autumn 2017 the National Infrastructure Commission should make recommendations for:
- “Priority infrastructure to… improve [physical] connectivity across the corridor [including] within, and between, the area’s towns and cities, including public transport and a consideration of the interdependencies with social infrastructure requirements…
- A framework to ensure new infrastructure is of a high quality, maintains and/or protects the area’s environment and cultural assets (including the Green Belt)…” [emphasis added]
These are important and very welcome developments, and Cambridge Connect believes that provision of public transport fit for purpose for Cambridge over a medium term planning horizon deserves careful consideration within the work set out for the National Infrastructure Commission. This is particularly important because the East – West rail link coupled with the road Expressway (e.g. dualled A428) will serve to stimulate further the Cambridge economy, making investment in the infrastructure needed for sustainable and effective public transport within Cambridge City of even higher priority. Should this fail to be recognised, there is considerable risk that many potential benefits of the East – West rail link will fall on stony ground as the infrastructure within Cambridge City itself fails to cope.
In an associated announcement, the general corridor for the East – West rail line was selected to run from Cambridge to Bedford via Sandy. The Cambridge Light Rail network proposed by Cambridge Connect is designed to link closely with the heavy rail network at Cambridge Central Station. The proposed East – West line is thus complementary to, and fully compatible with Cambridge Light Rail.
Cambridge Connect supports the excellent work being done by Railfuture East Anglia on heavy rail, and interested readers should get in touch with them for more information about heavy rail developments in the region. Cambridge Connect is a member of Railfuture and is collaborating closely with Railfuture East Anglia on our Light Rail proposals. Railfuture East Anglia supports Cambridge Connect and the call for a full technical and economic feasibility study of Light Rail options for Cambridge.