East West Rail link needs to be electric from the start, say Greens

9 June 2021

Green Party calls for publication of full assessment of Northern route.

In its response to the East West Rail consultation, Cambridge Green Party has called for the line to be electrified from the start. Current proposals will have diesel trains running on the line to begin with. Retrofitting the infrastructure to allow for electric trains to run on the line will be more costly later. The response says, 'Creating new diesel railways is incompatible with the climate emergency and the government’s carbon reduction targets. Diesel engines also cause air pollution, which is damaging to human health, and diesel trains are noisier than electric trains, negatively affecting people living near the railway.’

Dr Hannah Charlotte Copley, City Councillor for Abbey, said, ’We need the government to act in accordance with the climate emergency they have declared. Electric rail is one of the most space efficient and lowest carbon forms of transport, which does not create harmful air pollution (unlike diesel trains) as it travels through local communities. We need electric rail to be installed right from the start: we know and the government knows how urgent the need to reduce emissions is. Putting diesel infrastructure in place would be an utter travesty."

The Greens’ response also called for the northern route to be fully investigated. While recognising that there are advantages and disadvantages to both the northern and southern routes, it calls for all the assessments that have been made of the northern route to be made public to enable a fair judgement to be made.

The consultation makes clear that one of the factors driving East West Rail is the planned development of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc. While welcoming the building of the rail link, the Green Party opposes the scale of the development envisaged in the Arc proposals. Naomi Bennett, Green Councillor for Abbey, said, ‘The Oxford-Cambridge Arc plans to put a third of our new houses in just a twentieth of the land area - land which is already hugely nature deprived and suffering from very serious water shortages. We need to change the way we look at development around Cambridge, focusing on how much an area can support and whether proposals will benefit those most in need, or just line the pockets of developers and corporations without making any positive difference to local people". 

Image: a section of the abandoned Varsity Line, which took passengers and freight between Oxford and Cambridge from 1845 to 1967. Photo credit Elizabeth May.

The disused Oxford-Cambridge railway

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