Sandy railway station threatened by planned Oxford-Cambridge interchange, report suggests
- Credit: Archant
Sandy could lose its railway station with passengers directed to a new interchange stop three miles out of town, a new report suggests.
The study, commissioned by Central Bedfordshire Council, looks at a scenario where the proposed Cambridge-to-Oxford East West Rail Link runs to the north of Sandy, with a new replacement station near Tempsford.
The route is yet to be chosen, but the study suggests that this option – which Central Beds Council prefers – would “open up the potential for significant economic growth and also deliver some of the area’s housing requirements”.
It states: “Scenarios have been explored based on a EWR interchange station (replacing the existing station) to the north of Sandy. The house price uplift estimated to be generated by the EWR station is up to 20 per cent.”
It adds: “Economic benefits associated with options for the new settlement and station north of Sandy range from £154m to £224m.
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“Overall a new settlement north of Sandy appears to present an opportunity for economic benefits and growth whilst enabling value uplift capture.”
Central Beds’ Local Plan proposes to build thousands of homes in a new standalone settlement in the Tempsford area – and independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny has said the report is intended to help justify this housing surge.
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He told the Comet: “Closing Sandy station would be a huge mistake.
“Central Bedfordshire Council is proposing a massive new housebuilding campaign but seems to have no idea of the effect on rail transport.
“People are rightly angry that none of the options Central Beds is considering involve keeping Sandy station open.”
Mr Zerny also criticised the council’s failure to demonstrate it had worked with other relevant authorities.
He said: “There are major plans underway to consider moving the A1 and A428 and altering the Black Cat roundabout, yet we see no evidence Central Beds is working with all the other agencies involved.”
The report, prepared by GL Hearn, Capita and LDA Design, examines scenarios of 7,000, 15,000 or 20,000 new homes to the north of Sandy.
It asserts that house prices around a new interchange station there would rise by 20 per cent in the event of East West Rail using the council’s preferred route.
Estate agents from Biggleswade, Royston and further afield, quoted as part of research by GL Hearn elsewhere in the report, do not describe any such uplift – and none of the Biggleswade agents named in the report project any upturn at all for their area.
The study describes an ‘EWR growth scenario’ whereby the new settlement north of Sandy would have a 20-minute rail connection with Cambridge – and among other things cites Cambridge’s emerging Local Plan, which predicts a population increase of more than 20 per cent.
It also estimates that as well as improving the Sandy area’s link to Cambridge, the EWR plan would give Sandy rail passengers journey times of eight minutes to Bedford, 25 minutes to Bletchley for Milton Keynes, 45 minutes to Bicester and 60 minutes to Oxford.
People have been quick to query the report online since Mr Zerny first raised concerns last week, with former town planning officer Pete Carter saying that it addressed “the most impractical conceivable route”.
Mr Carter, of Biggleswade, said: “The Victorians selected the most logical and economical route, having regard to gradients, etc.
“The indicative line shown by Central Beds Council is the most impractical conceivable route – straight up the side of the greensand ridge, straight over multiple lakes, not to mention how it crosses the A1.
“The original route – or as close to it as practicable – is the likely best solution, and this would use Sandy station as the interchange.
“However, my opinion is that the new railway won’t be built for at least 25 years. There’s no money allocated, no route chosen, no engineering design, no costing, no public consultation, no compulsory purchase order, no public inquiries, no ministerial decisions, and of course no construction works. All that exists is a vague expression that it would be a good idea. Twenty-five years is in fact optimistic.
“So making housing dependent upon a non-existent railway is massively premature.”
Network Rail is holding public consultation events on ideas for the East West Rail route through Beds until 8pm today at the Harpur Suite in Bedford, and from 12 noon to 8pm tomorrow at the Forest Centre in Marston Moretaine.
You can read the report online here.