Your feedback and our response
This chapter provides a summary of your feedback and our response to the main comments received in relation to the section of the new railway proposed from Harlton to Hauxton and the new junction that would be required to join the proposed new railway to the existing Cambridge to Royston line (the Kings Cross line) near Harston and Hauxton.
Throughout this section, text in italics is our response to the matters raised in your feedback.
Design of the new railway and proposed junction
Respondents provided a range of comments on the proposed new railway from Harlton to Hauxton, including on the specific route selected, the use of existing infrastructure and the efficiency of the service it could provide. They also provided a number of comments on their preferences for the type of junction and its value for money, as well as suggestions for alternative routes and additional stations.
Respondents expressed a mixture of both support for and strong opposition to the railway between Harlton and Hauxton, and the proposals to add a new junction near Harston and Hauxton.
Cambridgeshire County Council expressed support for the emerging preferred option, while Network Rail suggested providing a design which would maximise line speed.
Respondents who were opposed said that this was due to the negative impact the railway and junction would have on the surrounding areas and villages without offering any benefit to the local community.
We understand that many respondents are concerned about the potential impacts of the Project, and we acknowledge that the railway would have an effect on some settlements in the area. We are working to reduce these effects where practical. However, we’ve been tasked with designing a new railway between Oxford and Cambridge. This means that the new line needs to connect to the existing rail network near Cambridge so that the new services can access and serve Cambridge station. Due to the built-up nature of the approach to Cambridge, combined with our wish to avoid environmental features such as ancient woodland, designated ecological sites and heritage assets where possible, the railway must pass villages on the way. Impacts of the railway are being assessed via an ongoing programme of surveys. Updates will be provided at the statutory consultation, which we expect to take place in the first half of 2024.
The Project would have the potential to provide wider benefits to the local area by encouraging a modal shift for journeys from road to rail, with consequential reductions in through-traffic using the local road network.
Alignment of railway and type of junction
Respondents expressed support for the online option (where the new junction would be located on or near to the existing tracks) as they felt it may have less impact on the environment and would take less green belt land than the offline option (building the new junction to the south of the existing Network Rail tracks). It was requested that the track be set low in the landscape to avoid high embankments and also suggested that the track should be trenched, and then tunnelled through Chapel Hill specifically.
EWR would make use of the existing track capacity and only provide additional tracks where necessary to ensure that track capacity meets the forecast demand. EWR would utilise the existing Royston Branch Line between the new Hauxton Junction and the Shepreth Junction.
We propose an offline solution for the Hauxton Junction, as this would reduce the impact on the village of Harston compared with an online solution.
The application of Assessment Factors favoured an offline construction for the following reasons: it avoids impact on priority woodland habitat; reduces the impact on Station Road which is designated as an ‘Important Countryside Frontage’; requires the demolition of eight fewer properties; provides improvements to community, air quality and noise by moving the railway further away from the residential properties in Harston; and it would close the existing level crossing including providing a grade-separated crossing for pedestrian and cyclists for the Harston-Newton connection.
We appreciate the concerns around the impacts on countryside and the green belt and will work to identify and reduce these, including on Chapel Hill wherever reasonably practicable.
Cambridge is surrounded by designated green belt, which means that the railway would pass through it no matter which route option or route alignment it uses to approach the city. All alignments would therefore broadly have the same impact on green belt land, so this is not a differentiating factor between alignments.
The preferred southern approach to Cambridge and the preferred route alignment, which performs best against the Assessment Factor criteria for the new railway, means that EWR would pass through Chapel Hill. The current design assumes that a tunnel would be constructed by forming a temporary cutting through the hill, building the tunnel walls and roof before backfilling over and restoring the ground. This solution is considered feasible based on our current understanding of the ground conditions in the area.
As part of the design development, we’ll continue to explore ways to reduce the impact of the proposed tunnel by considering alternative solutions, including a temporary cut with near vertical side walls, or employing a specialist mined tunnelling method to avoid removing the top overburden. To establish the feasibility of these alternatives, however, requires detailed ground investigation using exploratory boreholes to verify the actual ground conditions. This will be undertaken during the next phases of design development.
We considered a number of options when preparing initial proposals for the railway, including whether it was appropriate for the new line to be constructed on an embankment, at-grade (i.e. at ground level) or within a cutting (i.e. a trench). In doing so, we’ve followed the Project objectives which seek to minimise the use of gradients along the route. This is because gradients, especially where steep, can affect train performance. A more level alignment allows for a faster, more efficient operation and uses less energy.
If the railway in this section was constructed in cutting (a 'trench' lined with concrete) the vertical alignment would still need to rise to cross the River Rhee/River Cam on a viaduct. This would cause steeper gradients, because of the height difference between the retained cutting and the level needed for a viaduct to safely cross the river.
Grade-separated or at-grade junction
Respondents shared a wide range of views on whether the junction should be grade-separated – where one set of tracks pass over the other, or at-grade where the two tracks meet at the same level, with others saying that they had no preference between the two.
Respondents who supported the grade-separated option noted that they felt it would reduce disruption in the local area, including on existing services, and that it would provide more rail capacity and so future-proof the design. Network Rail expressed support for a grade-separated junction due to limitations on the future capacity that would be caused by a flat junction. The respondents also stated that a grade-separated junction would allow further growth on the Cambridge to Royston line. Those that opposed it requested that the railway should not be elevated. Similarly, other respondents referenced support for keeping the at-grade junction and keeping the track on ground level to reduce the impact on residents. This includes concerns raised by Historic England regarding the potential impact from a grade- separated Hauxton junction.
As set out in our 2021 Consultation Technical Report, we considered various options for how this new junction might be built. This included grade-separated options and at-grade options. At-grade options have lower capacity because there are more points of potential conflict between different train movements. The level of the existing and proposed train services means that the at-grade options wouldn’t provide enough capacity to allow the new services to operate without adversely affecting current passenger and freight operations. This means that the at-grade options wouldn’t meet the project objectives and therefore not afford the capacity benefits that we are seeking to deliver from the new railway.
While a grade-separated junction would have a higher vertical alignment, this is the only option which would allow us to add the capacity required to deliver the predicted demand. As we develop designs for the Project, we’ll consider how potential impacts might be reduced and, if they cannot be avoided altogether, what mitigation measures would be appropriate. For example, since the consultation we’ve reduced the design height of embankments where possible (this information is available on our website) to allow the new infrastructure to integrate better with the surrounding landscape. We’ll publish further details at the statutory consultation.
Value for money
Respondents commented that the proposed junction would be too expensive to construct. Some of these respondents attributed this to the cost of construction of the bridge and required embankments as part of the preferred, grade-separated option. It was suggested that the proposal would be a poor use of taxpayers’ money as a result.
An at-grade junction wouldn’t meet the project objectives that we’ve been set. As set out in our 2021 Consultation Technical Report, this is because there are more points of potential conflict between different train movements, which leads to lower overall capacity than for a grade-separated junction. As such, although an at-grade solution would be cheaper it would not meet the Project objectives and therefore a grade-separated junction is required, although we haven’t yet confirmed the exact location for it.
Conversely, some respondents expressed concern that the proposal is the cheapest option, and would therefore be low-quality, and that cost, or ease should not be prioritised over the potential impact on the landscape or people's livelihoods.
The proposed design isn’t the cheapest option but the one that performs best against the Project’s assessment criteria, which includes consideration of costs amongst other factors.
The costs and impact on landscape and people’s livelihoods was considered as part of a rigorous process using a range of Assessment Factors, outlined in Chapter 5 and Appendix C of the Consultation Technical Report. This included Assessment Factor 14 – environmental impacts and opportunities.
Alternative suggestions for junction and route alignment
Respondents put forward suggestions for alternative routes and locations for the proposed junction and railway. These included:
- Following and going over the M11 – some respondents suggested this would provide a shorter route.
- Moving the line further south – some respondents proposed that moving the line further south away from Harston would help negate potential noise, visual and severance impacts on the village.
- Moving the line further north – some respondents suggested that taking a more northerly approach near Comberton would reduce visual, noise and severance impact on villages such as Harston and Harlton, while having the added benefit of a reduced journey time.
- Avoiding interference with the A10 – some respondents suggested joining the King's Cross line from somewhere between Shepreth to Foxton station before the A10. It was suggested this would avoid potential traffic issues on the A10.
We’ve considered a range of options for the location of the railway in this area, as it approaches the existing network near Cambridge. These include the suggestions raised by respondents. The suggestions wouldn’t perform as well as the preferred alignment for the reasons outlined below:
- While an alignment following and going over the M11 motorway would be shorter, it would pass directly through a number of Scheduled Monuments, designated priority habitats and a longer length of flood zone. A new bridge would also be needed so that the railway could cross the motorway. This would increase the environmental impact and lead to more complex and costly construction, including the potential need to demolish residential and commercial properties in Great Shelford.
- The offline junction that we’ve proposed would be further away from Harston than an online option. This would also mean that the existing railway would be re-aligned to be further away from the village. Relocating the railway further to the south – away from Harston – might further reduce potential noise, visual impact and perceived severance. However, this would result in the railway directly affecting Scheduled Monuments to the southwest of Harston, as well as potentially running through a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). In order to avoid these environmental features, we would need to divert the railway further south on a large loop, which would create a large area of land surrounded by the new infrastructure severed from the wider landscape. This would lead to a longer, more expensive alignment which would extend journey times for passengers and reduce the potential benefits unlocked by the project. It would also bring the new grade-separated junction significantly closer to the village of Foxton, increasing potential impacts on local residents.
- While taking a more northerly alignment between Comberton and Hauxton – with the railway passing to the north of Harlton, Haslingfield and Harston – would reduce the impacts on these villages, it would bring the railway closer to significant areas of designated priority habitat, as well as having the potential to directly affect the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory (MRAO). We would also need to demolish several residential properties in Harston where the railway crosses the A10 on the way to joining the existing railway network, with the new line being located significantly closer to other properties as it would pass directly through the centre of the village. If the railway passed north of Hauxton instead, a complex and expensive new bridge would be needed in order to cross the M11 motorway, and residential and commercial property in Great Shelford would need to be demolished. The preferred option would not need this additional infrastructure. It would not result in the problems of residential property demolition in this location, is further from the designated priority habitats, and would have less impact on the MRAO.
- With respect to the proposal for the new railway to join the new Royston Branch line between Foxton and Shepreth, this would require the demolition of property in the centre of Barrington unless a large loop is constructed – which would significantly increase the overall route length, while reducing transport user benefits because of the increased journey times. This would be exacerbated by the need to avoid direct impacts on a number of designated environmental features between Barrington, Orwell and Harlton, including priority habitats, heritage assets and a site of special scientific interest. Under this scenario the increased track usage at Foxton would need the level crossing to be closed and a bridge or tunnel for the A10 would be required.
Under no scenario would this avoid potential traffic issues on the A10, because under our proposals, the A10 would remain grade-separated from the railway.
Respondents suggested building a new Royston Branch Line Station at Harston as they felt this would help to reduce some of the negative impacts from the new junction. Others went further and remarked that without an additional station, there wouldn’t be any benefit to local people.
We have been tasked with designing a new railway between Oxford and Cambridge. As such, the construction of a new station near Harston on the Royston Branch Line – which connects Cambridge, Hitchin and London Kings Cross – falls outside of the Project’s scope. The EWR timetable would not impact upon existing London King’s Cross services on the Royston Branch Line.
A new station is not proposed at Harston. This is due to the reduction in overall line capacity resulting from trains having to slow down and stop. It would mean that more extensive infrastructure upgrades, such as additional tracks between the new junction where EWR joins the existing rail network and Shepreth Junction and alterations to bridges, would be needed. This would increase cost, require the acquisition of more land and have potentially greater environmental impacts. We are, however, aware that the feasibility of opening a new station near Harston is currently being explored by third parties and our proposals would not preclude this.
While intermediate stations for individual settlements aren’t included, the project would still have the potential to provide wider benefits for the local area – such as by encouraging modal shift for journeys from road to rail, which would reduce through traffic using the local road network.
Efficiency and journey times
Some respondents supported any option that would provide an efficient train service and faster journey times. There were suggestions for a fast link to Cambridge South, removing the need to go into central Cambridge.
The alignment that we’ve proposed for this section of the new railway performs well against our Assessment Factors; the tool used to assess options. The preferred option performs well with regard to route length, being 1km shorter than the equivalent northern approach and with commensurate journey times to the northern approach.
Our proposals would enable trains to serve Cambridge stations, with a direct non-stop link to Cambridge South from Cambourne.
Impact of construction and operation of a new junction and railway
Respondents provided a range of comments on how the construction and operation of the proposed new railway and junction would impact the local area including communities, existing infrastructure and the environment.
Closure of level crossings and impact on connectivity and safety
Respondents expressed support for the closure of Station Road level crossing. Others expressed concern as the crossing currently provides direct access between Harston and Newton and could impact traffic. Respondents voiced concern about the connectivity between villages and the possibility of community links being severed. Respondents also highlighted the importance of villages such as Harston and Newton staying connected, given that they are served by the same church reverend, and share important facilities such as a school, post-office and GP surgery.
Some respondents suggested that a proposed bridge for cyclists and pedestrians would be less safe than the current level crossing. Whereas others specifically requested that bridges be implemented, as opposed to tunnels, for pedestrian and cycle access. It was also claimed that any bridge that is cyclable would also be driveable by small cars, and measures should be taken to ensure that access is restricted for motor vehicles on the cycle bridge. Respondents also suggested that a route for non-motorised users along the railway would help to encourage low carbon travel.
In developing the proposals for Section E, we’ve considered how the new railway would interact with existing active travel routes used by pedestrians and cyclists, including potential opportunities for how these could be improved to encourage greater use of these more sustainable travel modes.
No decision has yet been taken as to whether the level crossing on Station Road – between Harston and Newton – would be closed, but if that is required, we are considering how this connection can be maintained for use by pedestrians and cyclists only through the provision of a new grade-separated crossing of the railway, such as a bridge. In conjunction with this, removal of the existing level crossing and the closure of the road to through traffic would offer significant safety benefits to pedestrians and cyclists using this route compared to the current level crossing and road, which has no pavements or street lighting for most of its length.
Further details of our proposals for potential solutions in each location, including bridges or underpasses and any measures that might be required to prevent misuse by motor vehicles, will be provided at the statutory consultation. This will include ways that the new railway could integrate with the local highway and right of way network, including the provision of appropriate facilities to encourage the use of active modes, such as cycling, for people who wish to access the new train services or other local services.
Respondents raised concerns that the introduction of the junction would disrupt children’s journey to school by car, bus or bike. Some of these respondents are strongly opposed to children being required to use dark underpasses to get to school.
As above, no decision has yet been taken as to whether the level crossing on Station Road would close. If it is required, we’re considering how this connection can be maintained for use by pedestrians and cyclists only through the provision of a new grade-separated crossing of the railway, such as a bridge. Placing the road or the railway in a cutting or underpass in this location would be expensive, complex and have potentially greater environmental impacts. Further information about this issue will be shared during the statutory consultation stage.
Respondents raised concerns about potential interference with equipment at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory due to vibration and electromagnetic sensitivities of the work conducted there.
We’ve considered the potential for vibration from the new railway to impact on the MRAO. This has included discussions with the relevant departments at the University of Cambridge. Based on current information, we consider that any potential vibration impacts would be capable of mitigation and that there would be no material residual effect on the observatory. The potential for the new railway to interact with the MRAO is addressed as part of our response to the feedback that we’ve received in respect of Section D (see Chapter 8).
Respondents requested that the Foxton level crossing be closed as part of the proposal noting that this would provide benefits to the local communities. Suggestions were made for level crossings to be replaced by bridges to maintain access.
Our proposals would lead to the new junction between EWR and the existing network being constructed to the east of the Foxton level crossing. As such, the new services that we would be delivering wouldn’t increase the number of trains using Foxton level crossing and don’t in themselves require a new bridge over the railway to be constructed in this location. Foxton level crossing itself isn’t within the scope of the Project and is therefore not being considered for closure.
Impact on existing road network, cycle routes and Public Rights of Way
Respondents expressed concern about the potential impact on existing roads and paths in the area and how this would in turn affect local communities. They are specifically concerned about the severing of roads and public rights of way in areas such as Barrington Hill potentially disconnecting neighbouring villages.
We’ve considered the potential impact on existing roads and public rights of way in developing and assessing potential options for the new railway in Section E, especially where these connect villages and hamlets.
In some cases, we may need to close existing roads to make sure that the current and new railway can be operated safely. For example, if the risk assessments for level crossings show that they need to be closed or replaced because of the greater number of trains using the line. If this is necessary, we’ll set out proposals for how any road or PRoW Way closures can best be mitigated. This could include the provision of new bridges or underpasses or the diversion of traffic onto other routes. We would take account of how these routes are used, including by cyclists, school children, buses and the emergency services.
We'll consult in more detail on our proposed solutions for each location as part of the statutory consultation.
Respondents remarked that the A10 is already a busy road, and closure of roads would cause more traffic to be diverted onto this road. Some respondents requested that as part of the proposal, compatibility with a future A10 bypass be considered. These respondents claimed that a bypass would benefit the local community, and it was suggested that we could provide funding for the bypass to be implemented. Respondents expressed concern over increases in traffic in the area due to closure of roads with some mentioning that it would make their commute laborious. National Highways requested assessment of traffic impacts on the Strategic Road Network (SRN) (A1, A428, M11) arising from the Project with modelling and outputs agreed with the respondents. National Highways also requested to assess these impacts holistically taking account of other EWR traffic, proposed works on the SRN and on local roads, any required possessions on the King’s Cross Line/Cambridge to Royston Line, and the use by abnormal loads.
The construction or funding of a future A10 bypass does not fall within the scope of the Project that we’ve been asked to deliver. It wouldn’t be required to deliver the new railway or to mitigate any of the impacts of EWR. However, our proposals wouldn’t preclude a new A10 bypass from being constructed if this was brought forward by the relevant authorities in the future.
We will be carrying out comprehensive traffic and transport modelling to confirm that any changes in traffic flows for commuting, leisure and other purposes wouldn’t have an adverse impact on other parts of the road network. We’ll provide an update at the statutory consultation. This would apply for both the construction phase of the Project to take account of the potential impact of construction traffic, as well as the operational phase once the new railway is complete and services are running.
Respondents expressed concern about disruption or cuts to existing cycle routes in the area, such as routes to the school in Harston from Newton. Others ask that access routes for cyclists and pedestrians be maintained and possibly improved as part of the proposal. Pedestrian and cycle access between Harston and Newton was also requested by Cambridgeshire County Council.
In developing our proposals for Section E, we’ve thought about how the new railway would interact with existing active travel routes used by pedestrians and cyclists and how the Project might be able to deliver an overall improvement in local connectivity. For example, there’s an opportunity to work with local authorities to explore options for the creation of active travel corridors such as new cycling routes. We’ll provide an update at the statutory consultation.
Impact on farmland
Respondents expressed concern that the proposal for the new junction would have a negative impact on farmland. It was claimed that the farms would be severed. Respondents also suggested that agricultural crossings should be implemented every 500m as part of the proposal, with concerns about access for farm machinery and in particular how this may be interrupted during construction.
We understand the importance of agriculture to the communities the railway would serve and are focused on finding solutions that avoid, reduce or mitigate adverse impacts on land use and agricultural holdings. At each stage of the planning and development process, we’ll assess the environmental impacts on important areas such as agricultural land and the countryside. To better understand how the land is used, we’ll continue to work with landowners, occupiers and land managers to gather information that will help inform the design process.
We’ve invited farm owners and occupiers to take part in initial farm business interviews, to help inform where land would be severed. These were held at the early-stage design when the exact location of the railway was not known. Following announcement of the preferred route, and when requirements are better known, we’ll engage with landowners and occupiers (including undertaking Farm Business Assessments) to understand the effects of the Project on their farming operations. We’ll also consider mitigation measures, including provision for access to severed land – both during construction and when the railway has been built. We’ll provide an update at the statutory consultation.
Impact of construction on existing train services
Respondents remarked that disruption to existing services, such as the Cambridge line, must be kept to a minimum during construction and operation, as this is a busy commuter line. Cambridgeshire County Council stated that EWR services should not increase journey times and timetabling for services on the Cambridge to Royston line.
We would need to take possession of the rail network to carry out the works over the existing railway and connect the new lines and junction together, so there would inevitably be some degree of disruption to existing services during construction. Line blockades would result in service disruption to transport users on the Royston to Cambridge line. Minimising impact on the live network is a high priority and we are developing construction phasing plans to explore the most efficient approach for integrating the new railway with existing live operations. We’ll provide an update at the statutory consultation stage.
While a preferred construction option has not yet been selected, if the new junction were to be constructed offline then this would reduce the need to carry out works under planned possessions. It would also be less disruptive overall compared to an online option.
Approach to construction
Respondents said that the construction of the junction would cause disruption and inconvenience for local people in the area. Respondents voiced concern that disruption to the community would potentially last for years, with impacts such as noise and possible road closures.
For us to deliver the objectives for the Project, the new railway needs to join the existing network so that the new services can access Cambridge stations. This means a new junction would need to be constructed, which would inevitably lead to some disruption for local communities. Such disruption would arise regardless of where the new junction is located.
We are aware of the potential impact of construction activities and traffic on local residents and businesses while the new line is being built and will look for opportunities to reduce this where feasible, such as through construction phasing and the provision of suitable alternative routes and crossings where appropriate.
In relation to congestion, we will undertake a Transport Assessment of the impact on the strategic and local highway networks, road safety, and local sustainable modes of transport, including public transport. Outcomes of this will initially be reported in the Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) published at the statutory consultation and then within Environmental Statement (ES) submitted alongside the Development Consent Order (DCO) application. The assessment will consider impact of construction on the road network, such as changes to existing traffic patterns because of predicted construction traffic, and the suitability of roads, including those around Hauxton Junction as mentioned by respondents.
The changes in traffic, as well as other factors such as noise generated from construction activities, will be assessed and results presented in the PEIR and ES. Through this process we will identify elements of the Project and activities that could result in significant environmental effects, and describe the mitigations proposed to reduce effects as far as reasonably practicable. In relation to construction impacts, potential impacts on the environment will be identified and managed, as far as reasonably practicable, by a Code of Construction Practice (CoCP), or equivalent document, which will be submitted alongside the DCO application. This will include measures to control impacts related to construction noise and vibration and air quality, for example.
Respondents expressed concern that the proposed junction would have a detrimental impact on the local environment, referencing the impact of high embankments on noise, air pollution and views. These respondents requested that any impact on the environment be reduced, and the green belt preserved. Network Rail stated that the design of proposed junction needs to reduce environmental impacts.
We’ve considered the potential environmental impacts and opportunities of the Hauxton Junction options and found that an offline, grade-separated junction performed better than other junction options considered. In particular, we found that the offline, grade-separated option would avoid potential direct impacts on ancient woodland and move the alignment further from residential properties.
We’ll continue to consider potential impacts on the environment and communities and how to reduce or mitigate these effects. We’re also considering a range of measures to reduce the effects of noise and vibration and the impacts of our proposals on local wildlife.
With respect to air quality, we’ll assess changes in Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), fine particulates (known as PM2.5 and PM10) and dust, during both construction and operation. This assessment will follow best practice and guidance such as set by the Institute of Air Quality Management and other recognised bodies as we develop our proposals.
With respect to wildlife, in developing the designs for the railway, we’ve taken into account the potential interaction with wildlife corridors and whether additional structures or works might be required in order to prevent or reduce disruption. A programme of habitat surveys and species-specific surveys will be undertaken to help understand where species and habitats are in the landscape and how they are used. This will allow the Project to avoid, reduce, mitigate and if necessary, compensate for identified impacts throughout the design of the railway. For example, we will consider where to enhance or create wildlife corridors and green infrastructure where appropriate.
We’ll continue to explore ways in which the visual impact of the new railway might be reduced. For example, since the 2021 consultation, we’ve reduced the height of embankments where possible so that the new infrastructure better integrates with the surrounding landscape. Further work will also include consideration of designations, such as green belt, and the railway will need to be designed in a way that respects the character of the green belt. We’ll publish further details on this at the statutory consultation.
The likely risks from construction activities and potential impacts from operation, including identification of mitigation and control measures will also be presented as part of the PEIR and will be published at the statutory consultation. An ES will then be submitted as part of the DCO application.
Respondents expressed concern about potential increases in air pollution in the area. It was remarked that the surrounding villages already suffer air pollution due to the proximity of the A10. These respondents were concerned that this proposal would add to pollution, mentioning in particular the use of diesel trains and embankments. Respondents expressed concerns about impacts on the physical health of residents, particularly with regards to vulnerable people, children, older people and those with underlying health conditions such as asthma. The proximity of the route to schools such as Haslingfield Primary School and Comberton Village College, was also highlighted in relation to this.
It would be necessary for parts of the railway in this area to be constructed on embankments and viaducts in order to cross the River Rhee and allow local roads and rights of way to remain open.
No decision has been made as to what method of propulsion would be used for the new EWR services. These would be predominantly passenger trains rather than freight and we are currently exploring potential technologies that could be used with our partners in the rail industry that would be less likely to lead to increased air pollution in the area as a result of the new railway once it is operational, including near villages, schools and other community facilities. In any event, the use of rail transport is materially less polluting than alternatives.
We expect to publish further details on how the new trains might be powered as part of the statutory consultation.
We will seek to reduce the impact the new railway may have on air quality and pollution. The Project will be developed in line with Government policy, such as the Clean Air Strategy; and will work with Local Authorities to understand the current situation in communities, including assessing changes in NOx, PM2.5 and PM10, and how to consider relevant Air Quality Management Areas, as well as receptors such as Haslingfield Primary School and Comberton College. The team will consider what vehicles and equipment will be used during the construction and operation of the railway, as well as how to manage work sites to avoid and reduce any dust creation.
As part of developing our proposals and assessing the impacts of these, we’ll consider how our plans may impact those with protected characteristics and local community facilities which may be particularly sensitive, such as schools.
As we progress detailed designs for Section E, we’ll continue to consider these potential impacts and seek to reduce or mitigate them where appropriate. We’ll also address issues raised including social mobility and connectivity considerations (e.g., to leisure, shopping, healthcare for older people and others).
Assessing the impact of the Project on the environment is a fundamental part of the design of the Project’s development, including possible mitigations. Outcomes of this will initially be reported in the PEIR published at the statutory consultation and then within the ES submitted alongside the DCO application.
Respondents voiced concern that the new junction would have significant visual impact. The impact on Chapel Hill in particular is a concern for respondents who regard it as a significant landmark. They are concerned about the proposed height of the embankment and several of these comments suggest the embankments would be visually intrusive and cause a loss of skyline and horizon. Respondents also suggested that this visual blight would have a detrimental impact on residents’ mental health.
In developing the options for connecting to West Anglia Main Line (WAML) that were presented at the non-statutory consultations, we looked at a number of high-level options. In doing so we considered the joining the WAML to the north and south of the Shepreth Junction, as well as the option of joining the Royston Branch Line directly around the Harston area.
As part of looking at these options, environmental constraints, such as the presence of protected and designated assets and visual impacts, were considered alongside other factors to test whether the options could meet the Project’s objectives. We concluded that joining the Royston Branch Line in the Harston area would best meet EWR’s objectives and avoid the environmental impacts associated with joining the WAML to the north and south of Shepreth Junction.
As a consequence, there was limited flexibility for the alignment between Harlton and Harston, where Chapel Hill is located. However, the alignment in this location was developed to avoid and reduce potential environmental impacts where reasonably practicable.
To the west of Harlton, in order to cross existing geographical features and routes, such as the River Rhee/River Cam and the A10 trunk road, we need to elevate the railway to maintain these routes once the railway has been constructed. This necessitates the use of embankments and viaducts which would inevitably have some degree of visual impact, both during construction and in operation.
In response to the feedback that we received, we’ve considered ways in which the visual impact of the new railway, including on important skylines and horizons, could be reduced. For example, we considered potential opportunities for how the height of embankments might be reduced. This could deliver potential benefits in terms of both construction cost and reduced visual impact on nearby residents and businesses. We’ve also examined whether the use of more shallow embankments would allow the new infrastructure to better integrate with the surrounding landscape and facilitate landscaping to reduce and mitigate potential impacts even further.
We’ll publish further details about this at the statutory consultation which will include an assessment of the potential environmental impacts of the Project, initially to be reported in the PEIR and then within ES submitted as part of the DCO application.
Respondents requested that any infrastructure built as part of the proposal be future proofed and that any building works be sympathetic to the landscape and to local residents.
As we proceed to develop designs for the new infrastructure to ensure its resilience, we would also consider detailed ways in which the works can be designed and constructed to reduce and mitigate potential impacts on the local landscape and residents. For example, the use of landscaping to increase the extent to which embankments blend into the surrounding landscape. We will publish further details about this within the PEIR, at the statutory consultation.
Respondents requested that there be no damage to the rivers and chalk streams in the area and others voiced concern over potential impacts on water drainage and asked that this be mitigated to prevent flooding. It was noted that careful consideration needed to be given to the area around the Eversdens that was used as a military dump for mustard gas from the First World War and unexploded bombs from the Second World War, in order to protect the environment.
We consider the importance of environmental sustainability in our activities and the decisions made to ensure that the Project is designed, constructed, operated and maintained in an environmentally responsible manner that reduces negative environmental impacts. We’ll identify elements of the programme activities that could result in significant environmental effects, including in relation to the areas highlighted by respondents, by undertaking an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in accordance with UK legislation, which will be informed by associated environmental assessment and environmental survey activities.
We are aware of the high-value nature of many areas of the water environment through which the route would pass directly over or near to, including rivers and chalk streams. We will identify surface water and groundwater features that have the potential to influence or be influenced by the proposed route. When assessing possible impacts from the Project on the water environment, our assessment will consider effects in both upstream catchments and downstream reaches that might be influenced by the route over the lifetime of the Project, including the potential impacts of pollution generated during construction. We’ll publish further details about this within PEIR, at the statutory consultation.
We will develop flood risk assessments to help inform the design process, which will incorporate taking account and planning for the future requirements of a changing climate. The PEIR will include baseline data supported by surveys, flood modelling and a preliminary construction and operation assessment of impact on surface water, ground water, flood risk and land drainage. This will be presented at the statutory consultation with a full ES being submitted as part of the DCO application.
We recognise the importance of identifying and managing land contamination to make sure that land is suitable for its intended use and does not pose a risk to human health or the environment, which includes land around the Eversdens. The PEIR will include information regarding the presence and likely extent of contamination, potential impacts, and identification of possible mitigation measures, and will be presented at the statutory consultation. Construction-related impacts on the environment would be identified and managed, as far as reasonably practicable, by a CoCP or an equivalent document, submitted alongside a DCO application. This will include measures to control impacts related to contaminated land.
Respondents expressed their concern about possible negative impacts to Wimpole’s Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and to barbastelle bats. These respondents suggested the proposal could cause disruption to bat flight paths and put their existence at risk. A small number of respondents suggested building wildlife corridors such as tunnels and green bridges to protect local wildlife from potential disruption. It was claimed that bat bridges/gantries are not an effective method of mitigation. Respondents also expressed concern over the impact on wild orchids in the area, claiming it is a priority habitat that needs to be protected. This issue was also raised by Natural England.
We recognise the importance of biodiversity and protecting the habitats of local wildlife including barbastelle bats and wild orchids. As part of our commitment to changing the environment for the better, the company is thinking carefully about protected species and their habitats when designing the railway. We’re mapping where the new railway may cross and border habitats used by important protected species, in order to consider how best to avoid impacting them altogether or to mitigate impacts upon them. A programme of habitat surveys and species-specific surveys are designed to help understand where species and habitats are in the landscape and how they are used, enabling the Project to avoid, reduce, mitigate and if necessary, compensate for identified impacts throughout the design of the railway. For example, we will consider where to enhance or create wildlife corridors and green infrastructure where appropriate. The PEIR will include information regarding the ecology and biodiversity baseline supported by survey data, preliminary construction and operation assessment of impact on designated sites, habitats and species. This will be presented at the statutory consultation with a full ES being submitted as part of the DCO application.
We’ve taken advice from ecologists with specific reference to the Wimpole and Eversden Woods SAC, which hosts colonies of barbastelle bats. We carried out a number of surveys throughout 2020 to better understand the barbastelle population in the area, and we will carry out further bat surveys in 2023. These will be used to make sure that the design does not significantly affect the population of barbastelle bats, and the PEIR will describe the likely environmental effects of the proposals and report the results of survey work. We’re confident that significant effects on the integrity of the SAC and its supporting habitat, including how commuting routes used by the bats, can be avoided or mitigated where required. While the exact mitigation measures for specific locations would depend on the final design for the new railway, we aren’t proposing to use bat gantries.