Station switchbacks

This article was published in 2010, in Newsletter 88.


Progress towards improved facilities at Cambridge station can seem like a ride on Blackpool’s Big Dipper. We’ve lots of ups and downs, and keep thinking the end is in sight, only to be confronted by yet more ups and downs.

A recent down has been Ashwells going into administration, 
and an up could be the provision of new island platforms with 
the possibility of a connection to Rustat Road.

The down (with ups)

Ashwells went into administration shortly before Christmas, putting the ‘masterplan’ in jeopardy. A phoenix company (Brookgate) quickly rose out of the ashes, meaning that developments of student accommodation for Anglia Ruskin University, for which finance is believed to be available, should be on track. This part of the development is integral with the link road from the Brooklands Avenue junction directly to the station (Cambridge Gateway), so hopefully links here scheduled for 
some time in 2011 should be secure.

Other commercial and residential developments look less secure, and without them prospects for vastly improved cycle parking, as in the original plans, are bleak. We hope there may be a solution to this on the horizon.

The ups (with downs)

Network Rail’s ‘Route Plan’ for West Anglia says: 
’2011 Cambridge new 12-car island platform and associated works’ (see:

Although there have long been aspirations for additional platforms, these are coming to rapid (by railway standards) fruition because of the Olympics. Increasing traffic has meant many 8-car trains are crowded at peak times, and as extra traffic can be expected by 2012, extra stock for 12-car trains has been ordered. This will be of little use if more 12-car trains cannot be run as far as Cambridge.

We gather that an island platform some 250 m long will be built off-centre slightly north of the existing platforms, with an overbridge connection to the existing station and the possibility of a link to Rustat Road. Disability requirements mean there must be a lift, but such lifts may not easily accommodate bikes.

Because Network Rail is a ‘utility’ there is no requirement for planning permission, although listed building consent will be required for alterations to any existing listed structures. Despite this exemption it is normal for there to be some consultation with stakeholders, but we are concerned that the shortened timescale may mean opportunities for revision are limited.

Such developments should be good news, not only because of reduced congestion and fewer delays for trains and passengers, but also because an additional access route from Rustat Road could reduce congestion at the existing entrance, and provide easy opportunities for bike parking on the east side.

We will need to push to ensure that the link to Rustat Road happens.

Other ups and downs

A quick count of cycles parked in November gave 1,295, yet the official figures via CTC from National Rail give the far smaller number of 333! There is clearly the need for better culling of dead cycles (is that a tautology?), but we are also working with others to see if extra cycle parking can be arranged. We also gather that some improved arrangements for dealing with double locked bikes are being negotiated.

Jim Chisholm