Mayor Dr Nik Johnson’s statement regarding East-West Rail announcement
The news that the government has given the green light to the next stage of the East-West Rail project, which will connect Cambridge, and the whole of Cambridgeshire, with Oxford is most welcome. We’ve been waiting a long while for this announcement. I whole heartedly agree, we do need better east-west rail links for the region. It will bring growth and good quality jobs and take cars off the road. But it must be done right.
I am disappointed and frustrated, there is still no detail on the electrification of the line. We are in a climate emergency and this a missed opportunity to confirm they will provide a line that is fully electric and does not burden local communities with fumes from diesel train engines.
As Mayor, I have consistently called for all future rail developments to be electric, not diesel, and I know that many local leaders share this view. I will be working with my colleagues from across the region, and beyond, to continue to lobby for this – the Government must commit to full electronification. No ifs, no buts.
The route will also mean a new station for Cambourne. Connecting residents to Cambridge as well as Bedford, Milton Keynes and Oxford. When combined with the development of Cambridge South Station, this will strengthen connectivity across a globally renowned hub of science, research and innovation and support good growth at towns and cities along the route.
There is also a new station planned for Tempsford, just South of St Neots. While the station itself is in Central Bedfordshire it will impact Cambridgeshire residents and I will be seeking assurances from East West Rail about their plans to reduce or remove viaducts and embankments in the St Neots vicinity.
I am heartened to hear that community feedback has been listened to and that East West Rail will be launching a Need to Sell Property Scheme. I look forward to seeing the full eligibility criteria but hope that this will help concerned residents with a compelling reason to sell, but who can only do so at a far lower value due to East West Rail.
Despite concerns, East West Rail will help the world class businesses in our area to thrive by allowing people to get to and from their places of work and also open travel and leisure opportunities for the people of our region. I now challenge Government to go one step further and finally approve and progress the EACE rail project.
EACE will increase the impact of East West Rail, by allowing travel through to Norwich and Ipswich, truly opening the East.
Moreover, removing constraints in and around Ely means removing barriers to Britain’s trade with the rest of the world. It will unlock economic growth in the East, Midlands and North of England and bolster international trade by allowing an additional 2,900 freight services to operate to and from Felixstowe every year.
This is good, clean, growth. EACE will remove 98,000 lorries off the road each year, reducing road congestion by 5.6 million hours each year, and reducing carbon emissions by 1.7m tonnes of CO2 over 60 years.
Earlier this year, Deputy Mayor Cllr Anna Smith, challenged the Oxford to Cambridge Pan-regional Partnership to ensure that those on the fringes of the Partnership feel the benefits of schemes like East-West Rail. Delivering EACE will do just that, it will enable increased passenger services within the CPCA area, creating economic opportunities for our rural and urban communities.
I would like to thank partners, such as the Oxford to Cambridge Pan-regional Partnership and England’s Economic Heartlands, for their tireless work. I look forward to continuing to work with those partners to lobby Government to commit to and progress ambitious plans for our railways.
I will continue to work with East West Rail, liaising with local representatives and communities, to ensure all perspectives are represented at the next round of statutory consultation.