MP survey slams East West Rail for 'lacklustre' consultation

Will Gallagher, EWR's strategy director, Anthony Browne MP, Cllr Rich Williams and Simon Blanchflower, EWR's chief executive

Will Gallagher, strategy director at East West Rail (EWR), Anthony Browne MP, Cllr Rich Williams and Simon Blanchflower, EWR's chief executive - Credit: Supplied by Anthony Browne MP

South Cambs MP Anthony Browne has unveiled the results of his latest survey, where residents in his constituency shared their views on the ongoing East West Rail proposal. 

In his survey, which closed at the start of the month, Mr Browne's investigation aimed to gauge public perception of East West Rail (EWR) plans. 

Of the 3,047 residents surveyed, more than 18,000 responses were recorded, with an additional 1,617 comments left.

The survey was sent to every village affected by either the proposed EWR routes or the routes proposed by campaign groups, and also outlined the steps Mr Browne was taking to address residents’ concerns.

Results from the survey show that 58 per cent of respondents do not support the construction of East West Rail - which would connect Oxford to Cambridge - and a staggering 79 per cent of those who participated in the survey rated East West Rail’s public engagement as poor or very poor.

Labelling EWR's consultation strategy as "lacklustre", Mr Browne said that, although unscientific, the results from his survey "show clearly that East West Rail remains deeply concerning to residents".

"The East West Rail Company needs to do far more to address those concerns," he said in a statement. "It also needs to make a much better case if they want anyone to accept this route and be far better at communicating that case in future."

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More than half - 55 per cent, or 1,684 people - stated that they believe that the construction phase of the project will have a major impact on their daily life, with a further 833 (27 per cent) saying that the repercussions would be moderate.

When asked what factors of the East West Rail project most concerned respondents of the following options - embankment/viaducts/cuttings, noise, separation of communities, use of diesel trains and environmental impact - 69 per cent of those surveyed said that all were of equal concern, in line with Mr Browne's key areas of apprehension.

“I entirely agree with residents’ concerns and am committed to ensuring they are addressed.

"Our communities must not be separated, the route should be electrified from the outset, clear rules on freight travel must be published and they should put clear mitigations for noise and environmental in.

"Most importantly, the utterly unnecessary embankment needs to be brought back down to earth."

Mr Browne expressed his thanks to every resident who gave their feedback, and for highlighting the significant impact each issue raised has on different villages and areas across his constituency.

“This is the kind of vital information we need to ensure East West Rail hears and understands."

Thirty-eight per cent of those surveyed called for the cancellation of the railway altogether, while 52 per cent said they favoured a route to the north.

Mr Browne has not stated any preference on route alignment but welcomes East West Rail’s willingness to explain why a northern alignment was not being pursued as part of their recent consultation.

In response to Mr Browne's survey, a spokesperson for EWR said: “Local authorities from Oxford to Cambridge have campaigned for East West Rail for decades, recognising that improving east-west connections for communities across the area is absolutely critical if people are to continue to enjoy all the area has to offer.

“We have had an unprecedented level of consultation and engagement with local communities at this stage in the project. EWR has been identified as of importance by the government and the independent National Infrastructure Commission, not just in Cambridgeshire, but across the entire, globally significant Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

"We recognise that not everyone will support all aspects of the project, particularly where it will impact their area directly - but better public transport connectivity is much needed, and we are working hard to take on board community feedback and build a railway that meets the needs of UK as a whole and the communities we serve.”