Railfuture East Anglia steps up campaign for Haverhill to Cambridge …
Railfuture East Anglia has stepped up its campaign calling for the reopening of the railway line between Haverhill and Cambridge.
The volunteer-run rail user group says the move could link the city’s forthcoming Cambridge South station on the Biomedical Campus to Granta Park, Linton and Haverhill, covering a catchment of about 100,000 people.
Railfuture East is calling for support from local authorities
It is seeking support from Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council to encourage the Department for Transport (DfT) and rail industry to pursue the move.
The original line closed on March 6, 1967, during the Beeching cuts, following more than 100 years in operation and for years campaigners have argued the move should be reversed. In spring 2021, Railfuture East Anglia submitted a bid to the Department for Transport’s Restoring Your Railway fund, and it was assessed as a “good case for future development”.
But it says the case was “demonstrably weakened by the lack of local authority support”. At the time, it clashed with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority's proposal for a Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro (CAM) and with the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s plans for the Cambridge South East Transport (CSET) busway.
But the metro scheme was abandoned when Labour’s Dr Nik Johnson replaced Tory James Palmer as mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Meanwhile, the GCP has put its CSET busway plans on hold due to spiralling construction costs, as well as abandoning its Cambridge congestion charge plans.
In a letter to the council, it says: “This would achieve the GCP's 'bus road' ambitions of linking the Biomedical Campus's Cambridge South Station to Granta Park and just as importantly, would transform transport along the whole corridor out to Haverhill, a major source of housing for people working at the Biomedical Campus.
“Vitally, it would also be immune to any congestion both along the corridor and into the city's railway stations providing a fast and reliable link to jobs, education, healthcare and leisure.”
It points out that in February 2023 Transport East – a regional body bringing transport and planning authorities and business leaders together with Network Rail and National Highways – found the lack of a rail connection to Haverhill was a key challenge. It is now carrying out a connectivity study on how to serve Haverhill.
Railfuture East asked the September board meeting of the GCP whether it was time to look seriously again at the reopening of the line.
There are calls for the railway line to reopen between Cambridge and Haverhill
The GCP’s transport director, Peter Blake, replied: “I recognise what you have suggested from the Department for Transport and from Transport East but at the moment the rail industry has no plans to invest and no plans to reintroduce that rail line."
But Railfuture East argues in its letter that this was a “surprising” view.
“Railway reopenings have to be initially driven at a local government level, although they will eventually be built from national funding,” it says. “This has been shown to clear effect with the hugely successful Exeter to Okehampton railway reopening, sponsored by Devon County Council and the DfT, and the soon to be opened Newcastle to Ashington railway line sponsored by Northumberland County Council and the DfT.”
It adds: “We believe the situation is very urgent. There needs to be a recognition by all concerned that only the railway would serve Haverhill with fast-growing population and its strong links to the Cambridge jobs market, its potential as a railhead for 100,000 people east of Haverhill who otherwise drive to access the Cambridge region, particularly the very important research parks, for example at Babraham, Granta Park, that would be next to a the railway route.
“Only the railway would allow users to and from all the main employment sites across Cambridge to be linked in minutes quite away from any road use and its associated economic costs, by this 'universal' transport option.
“If this option is not adopted we will be faced increasingly by an ‘us and them’ situation that has developed in California where highly paid IT workers are ferried in vast fleets of coaches, causing huge resentment. That situation is already nascent in the Cambridge area with fleets of coaches carrying workers to and from Granta Park.”
The group is now awaiting responses from the local authorities, but may find a new ally in the Department of Transport, where Anthony Browne, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire was given a new role this week. Mr Browne offered his support to studying the idea back in 2021, arguing it would be “faster and less environmentally destructive than the CSET busway, taking a better route to major employment sites without the need for giant car parks in open countryside”.
- ^ metro scheme was abandoned (www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk)
- ^ Railfuture East Anglia (www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk)
- ^ given a new role (www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk)
- ^ support to studying the idea back in 2021 (www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk)
- ^ called for the reopening of the line (www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk)