East West Rail consultation

East West Rail consultation

We are urging all of our supporters to respond to the most recent East West Rail consultation, which closes on 9 June.

The Wildlife Trust supports moves to de-carbonise the UK transport network, which a well-considered and designed rail network can contribute to, particularly if it replaces motorway expansion or internal flights.

East West Rail however has significant potential to impact designated nature conservation sites, priority habitats and species and to compromise local nature recovery networks in Cambridgeshire. These impacts will arise from direct impacts from the construction and operation of the rail route and indirect and cumulative impacts from other infrastructure and the Ox-Cam Arc housing growth that East West Rail is explicitly designed to support.

The Wildlife Trust therefore urges East West Rail and the Government to:

  • Undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the route options between Bedford and Cambridge, to select the route which is best for the natural environment.
  • Fully assess the cumulative environmental impacts in combination with other major infrastructure projects and associated housing development, so that the scale, location and design of infrastructure and housing has the minimum impact on the natural environment.
  • Select a final route between Bedford and Cambridge that best avoids and minimises adverse impacts on nature, including cumulative and indirect impacts, and prevents loss or damage to irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland, and does not compromise local nature recovery networks.
  • Achieve a minimum 20% net gain in biodiversity through the creation and restoration of priority wildlife habitats, helping to expand and connect existing wildlife sites, and supports local nature recovery networks.
  • Achieve the highest levels of nature-friendly design, incorporating features such as wildlife tunnels, green bridges, Sustainable Drainage Systems, and native planting
  • Commit to decarbonising East West Rail from first operation, consistent with Government commitments to decarbonise the transport sector

An alternative route to Cambridge

Should East West Rail proceed, the Wildlife Trust still favour a route approaching Cambridge from the north, as set out by the CamBedRailRoad (CBRR) group, and supported by Cambridge Approaches. We share the unease recently charted in the Cambridge Independent, expressing 'unease at the lack of transparency as to why a northern approach has been ruled out'. Such a route would have the lowest impact on the natural environment and priority species and would not cut across or fragment areas with significant potential for landscape-scale enhancement of nature.

The East West Rail suggestion for a Cambourne North station and a route closely following the alignment of the A428 from Bedfordshire to Cambourne North (EWR Route Alignments 1 & 9) would strategically make the most sense. This option will avoid the West Cambridgeshire Hundreds, a priority area for landscape-scale nature conservation, where we are working with over 20 landowners to enhance the farmland around and connecting our nature reserves. It will also avoid the destruction of part of Cambourne Country Park, another of our nature reserves.

We have analysed the latest East West Rail route options and compared them to the CBRR proposals to understand the potential impacts on designated nature conservation sites. The table below summarises this information.

Nature Conservation Site Assessment Summary

Route Options






Sites directly affected (or within 100 m)





Sites within 500 m





Total sites potentially affected






Through our work on the Cambridge Nature Network, we have identified the landscape west of Cambridge as having significant potential to connect Cambridge to the West Cambridgeshire Hundreds, for the benefit of wildlife and people. The EWR favoured route alignments from Cambourne to Cambridge fundamentally compromise this goal of creating landscape scale connections for wildlife in this part of Cambridgeshire in providing a pleasant and largely undeveloped green lung accessible to the people of Cambridge.

Read our full response to the consultation here

Taking Action

The Wildlife Trust will continue to work with other local groups opposed to the East West Rail favoured southern approach to Cambridge, in order to seek changes to their plans that are better for the natural environment and wildlife, and which will connect more people to the rail system, and so promote sustainable travel options into Cambridge.

We encourage all of our supporters to make their views known and to respond to the East West Rail consultation, re-iterating the points we have made above. The public consultation closes on 9 June.

Respond to the public consultation



Rethink the Arc

The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is the UK Government's plan for growing the economy, housing and infrastructure (like roads and railways) in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. 

But in spite of local ambitions to protect the environment the plans have not properly considered the impacts on nature and climate.

The Government have launched a consultation to give you the chance to raise your priorities and concerns about this project. We have teamed up with the RSPB, The Woodland Trust, Berkshire Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust and CPRE to take a stand - will you join us and have your say?

Our e-action makes it easy to share your thoughts about the project.

Join our Rethink the Arc Campaign

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