Dismay and concern over plans to build 36-foot railway viaduct
- Credit: ARCHANT
Potential plans to build railway viaducts on land to the east of St Neots have been described as "beyond the pale" and "concerning".
The details are contained in documentation relating to the various options for the new East West Rail (EWR) link and were discussed at an Extraordinary meeting held by St Neots Town Council on May 5.
Councillors met to discuss how the council should respond to EWR on the options for the five routes, but, instead, a motion was put forward asking for more information and to arrange a meeting with someone from EWR to discuss concerns.
A motion, put forward by Cllr Gordon Thorpe and seconded by Cllr Barry Chapman, was agreed unanimously by those who attended the meeting.
The motion is also asking EWR for more time to make a formal response and requests that EWR attend a meeting with councillors to allow them to express their concerns about the proposed viaducts.
After The Hunts Post contacted EWR to seek confirmation on the plan for a viaduct, details of which St Neots town councillors were concerned had been "buried" in associated documents and do not appear in the consultation documentation, a spokesperson confirmed there may actually be two viaducts.
"Depending on which alignment option is selected following the current consultation, there may be two viaducts approximately 800m and 1 km respectively to the east of St Neots, one of which would be where the railway crosses the A428 road," said an EWR spokesperson
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"There is still more design work to do to refine them and we will look for possibilities to reduce heights of viaducts and proposed embankments across the route further as part of the engineering design process."
St Neots mayor, Cllr Stephen Ferguson, speaking after the meeting, said he was appalled at the viaduct plan and urged people to respond to the EWR consultation.
"I am absolutely appalled at the prospect of two 36 ft high viaducts, one of which passes within a few hundred feet of the Wintringham and Love's Farm housing developments," he said.
"The EWR consultation document makes no mention of the vertical elevation of the track; I was only able uncover the details of these viaducts after an extensive online search. It seems to me that this information has deliberately not been included from the consultation document, which is disingenuous at best.
"There is a significant difference between the ground level track that is illustrated in the consultation and viaducts that will cause visual, noise and diesel pollution for miles around. It is impossible for residents to make a fair judgement without this information.
"I urge the EWR Consortium to reconsider these plans, and to urgently respond to the request for a meeting with St Neots Town Council. Residents should also express their concerns directly via the consultation webpage."
Councillors are also unhappy about the proposal to use diesel trains when they have made a commitment for the town to be carbon neutral by 2030.
"We aim to become a net-zero carbon railway while making sure biodiversity is left in a better state than we found it. We are absolutely committed to running a sustainable railway in the long term, with reduced emissions, including for carbon NOx and particulates," said the EWR spokesperson.
"To that end, we are exploring how we can introduce new and emerging technologies in our long term train fleet, and will be seeking input from bidders across the market to ensure they understand our environmental goals."
Councillors also raised concerns about plans for the new A428 road link and suggested there should be a more joined-up approach between Highways England and EWR on the future of transport links in the area. Three of the five routes proposed by EWR follow the route of the new A428.
Cllr Sandie Giles said: "There doesn't seem to be any joined up thinking [Highways England and EWR] and we are not in a position to make an informed decision.
Cllr Barry Chapman said: "I am really worried. We need to discuss this further at a meeting with EWR attending."
Cllr Gordon Thorpe said: "This is beyond the pale. It looks like the original plans have been trashed and replaced with new ones."
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