Caring for the environment is at the centre of everything that we do.
At each stage of planning and developing East West Rail we work to ensure nature has a proper place in our plans. We want to change the environment for the better, delivering biodiversity net gain.
Protecting the environment is never an afterthought for us - it is a fundamental part of our decision-making. We are listening to and working closely with local community groups, environmental bodies and local highway and planning authorities to assess the environmental impacts of our plans on areas such as environmentally important sites and priority habitats. We take a proactive approach to avoid or minimise negative environmental impacts.
East West Rail will be a new, environmentally sustainable way to travel across the region. Our aim is to become a net zero carbon railway. To achieve this, we are looking at ways to advance low carbon design and to use green energy to power our trains.
How are we doing?
We are committed to delivering a net zero carbon railway, in line with existing and developing net zero carbon policy and legislation.
As the Project advances, we will continue to develop our approach to delivering on this aim and provide further information around the scope of our target during our statutory consultation in winter 2021/ 2022.
We want to build on the commitment of 10% biodiversity net gain made in relation to the part of EWR between Bicester to Bletchley
To achieve this, we will continue to prioritise avoiding high value and priority habitats. We will consider enhancing some existing habitats and look at opportunities to create new habitats. We will provide further information on our plans for achieving biodiversity net gain during our statutory consultation in 2021/ 2022.
It’s really important that from start to finish EWR strives to be environmentally responsible. That’s why all the alignment options we have designed for the new railway from Bedford to Cambridge avoid directly impacting the most important environmental and heritage sites in the area, such as listed buildings and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
We’re also trying to avoid other environmental sites such as priority habitats. Where that’s not possible, we will be looking to reduce the area of habitat required as much as practicable and mitigate the impact that any loss may have in line with our commitments on biodiversity net gain (as we explain above).
Where there are other impacts as a result of the new railway, like those relating to landscape, we’ll work hard to reduce these through sensitive design. More detailed information on this will be shared during our statutory consultation in winter 2021/ 2022.
We take climate change seriously and we will continue to develop our approach to understanding and mitigating any Project-related risks linked to climate change. We will consider changes to climatic conditions and extreme events within the design of the Project.
We will also develop flood risk assessments to help inform the design process, which will incorporate uplifts to take account of the changing climate.
We will provide further information during our statutory consultation in 2021/ 2022.
Although no commitment has yet been made by Government to electrify the railway between Oxford and Cambridge, we will need to ensure the railway aligns with relevant policy and complies with relevant legislation related to net zero carbon efforts.
We will include information on this during our statutory consultation in 2021/ 2022.
We understand the importance of biodiversity and protecting the habitats of local wildlife. As part of our commitment to changing the environment for the better, we are thinking carefully about protected species and their habitats when designing the railway. This includes the colony of barbastelle bats in Wimpole and Eversden Woods Special Area of Conservation (SAC) which is located within the route option area and within 3-4km of the emerging route alignments between Bedford and Cambridge.
Throughout 2020 we carried out a number of surveys to better understand the barbastelle population in the area and we will carry out further bat surveys in 2021.
We are also mapping where the new railway may encounter habitats used by other important protected species, such as badgers or great crested newts, so that we can consider how best to avoid impacting them altogether or to mitigate impacts upon them. Our programme of habitat surveys and species-specific surveys is designed to help us understand where species and habitats are in the landscape and how they use it, enabling us to consider their needs as we design the railway.
We understand the importance of agriculture in the communities the railway will serve, which is why we are focused on finding solutions that avoid or mitigate negative impacts to farmland. At each stage of our planning and development process,
we are assessing the environmental impacts on important areas like farmland, including avoiding areas with the highest-grade agricultural land where we can.
Managing impacts on arable farmland and quality soil is an extremely important element of our commitment to delivering a net gain for biodiversity. We are exploring ways to reduce the impact of the railway on agricultural practices and soil resources. To help us better understand how the land is used, we will contact landowners and managers in spring 2021 to gather information that will help inform the design process.
It’s really important to us that urban and rural communities don’t experience unnecessary disruption as we plan, build and operate these vital rail links. We will continue to consider the impact of planned work as the Project progresses and work with affected communities and their representatives to ensure people impacted by the work are kept up to date with our activity.
It’s important that we’re building East West Rail not just in the right place, but in the right way too. We will prepare a Code of Construction Practice for the Project, which will explain the steps we will take to eliminate, minimise or mitigate disruption to local people, communities and the environment.
We will explain our approach to construction and operation of the railway and provide further details of potential effects of this during our statutory consultation in 2021/ 2022.
Environmental surveys are currently underway
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To find our more, please visit our Land and Property page.Learn more
Environmental Features Map
Our Nine Environmental Principles
To help us achieve our aims we’ve developed nine environmental principles to guide us. These are:
- Respecting important sites and locations
- Sourcing responsibly
- Protecting you from flooding
- Respecting our neighbours
- Protecting your farmland
- Caring for your landscapes
- Protecting species
- Preserving your heritage
- Contributing to the fight against climate change
You can read more about these in our Approach to the Environment Fact Sheet.