Who is a key stakeholder? Not anyone who is actually affected according to Network Rail

Residents have been pressing the railway organisations to explain why the Cambridge sidings were chosen for an trainwash in middle of a residential area that is itself in the middle of a conservation area. Today we learned that apparently only railway organisations count as key stakeholders.

Daniel Zeichner MP today passed on a letter from Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s Route Director for the Anglia Region. The full letter is below but we call your attention to the following two paragraphs:

I understand that residents would have liked this facility to be located at Cambridge North (also referred to as Chesterton Sidings). We highlighted this land for potential commercial development in early 2010, and while some of this land was used for the construction of the new station, the remainder was sold to raise funds for enhancements elsewhere on our network in early 2016.

The decision to construct a carriage wash at Cambridge depot was made after this land was sold. For land to be sold, we have to apply for and be granted land disposal consent from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). As part of this process key stakeholders including GTR, GA and the DfT were consulted and no objections were raised to this sale.

We note with extreme disappointment that Ms Burrows says that, after the land sale of Cambridge North, the decision to locate the trainwash at Cambridge involved “key stakeholders” and “no objections were raised”. Network Rail’s definition of key stakeholders here includes only railway organisations, not the community, not the city council, and not the county council. This is an appalling oversight.
“No objections were raised” because no-one who would be materially affected was asked.
It demonstrates the utter lack of interest any of these organisations have for the well-being of communities, the belief that their power is absolute, and a material intention to side-step genuine planning processes.
We further note that the decision to sell the land was made knowing that it would be appropriate for a trainwash but that the railway organsations preferred to sell the land to use the funds elsewhere rather than accommodate a trainwash that they knew they would need.
Ms. Burrows goes on to note that:
Both operators have since been clear on the need for a new carriage wash facility in the enhanced depot. Any wash must be located within an existing depot so that train movements through the facility can be accommodated within the timetable – moving trains to another part of the network simply to wash them would impact on performance and reliability.

The claim that moving trains around for cleaning would “impact performance and reliabilty” is not a sufficient excuse for building an industrial facility in a residential area that itself sits in the very centre of a conservation area. Siting a trainwash in a residential area impacts residents health, wellbeing, and quality of life by depriving them of the amenity of their community with of visual, noise, and chemical pollution.

GTR, Spencer Group, Network Rail, and the Cambridge City Council all now claim that planning approval is being sought because residents pressed the case.

Now residents are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to make it clear that a well-planned rail network needs a fully functional depot in a non-residental area.

Daniel Zeichner MP RE Cambridge Train Wash 220720

Make some noise: Quash the trainwash

What was that noise?

Residents of Romsey and Cambridge were rudely awakened by piling work reaching over 89 decibels at 4:30am this morning. See the video in the tweet below. This was just the first of many nights of work to come in a project run by NetworkRail, GTR, Greater Anglia, and Spencer Group, to build an enormous industrial trainwash immediately behind Great Eastern Street. Sign and share our petition at

There is a lot more building noise to come

GTR have said publicly in a leaflet (which was only distributed to small number of residents) that more work will happen on the nights of July 18 & 23. They also wrote privately to one resident specifying many more nights and days of work throughout all July and August.

On the 12th and 19th July the works will run from Midnight to 06:30. Early Sunday morning on the 12th we will be installing a new steel pile and steel structure in the location shown on the plan. We are also removing the wires to the North Sidings. On the following two Saturday nights/Early Sunday mornings we are carrying out modification works to the existing overhead wires mainly around the headshunt area. On Sunday 23d August the works will again start at midnight on the 23rd to 06:30. These works have to take place between midnight and 06:30 as this is the only time that Network Rail can turn off the electricity to the overhead wires. On Sunday 26th July the works will be in the daytime – 0800 to 1800 and likewise for Sunday 2nd August, 9th August and 6th August.

And that’s still not all. All is just enabling work for the trainwash itself – a ~33m long, ~9m high, ~7m wide building full of machinery that will operate 24/7/365, primarily between the hours of 1800 and 0600, with peak hours between 2300 and 0400. The machinery itself will create noise and there will also be considerable noise from up to four trains an hour will passing through it. The noise will never end.

The work does not have a Certificate of Lawful Development

Not only is this building and then operating noise never going to end, but the Cambridge City Council agrees with residents’ legal opinion that the entire project does not fit the definition of Permitted Development (see our legal opinion and the CCC’s agreement). Network Rail failed to seek Prior Approval in the form of a Certificate of Lawful Development.

An industrial trainwash does not belong in a residential area

Residents of Great Eastern Street and the wider community have been fighting for the railway companies to undergo a full planning process for a facility that may become the primary washing point for trains in East Anglia just 25m behind homes. Little meaningful consideration has been taken for the health and amenity of residents on the street or the wider community. We are not anti-rail. We depend on the railway, choose to live near it, and would be content for it to continue as is. Our concern is for the industrial scale of this proposed facility and where it could be appropriately situated.

What can you do?

Make one or more noise complaints

Let the CCC know about the disturbance and that GTR and Spencer should be fully aware of the consequences of contravening the regulations concerning noise disturbance to residents by construction work during unsociable hours.

When it happens at night again:

Immediately call the Cambridge City Council out of hours noise complaint number: 0300 303 8389

Complain about the ongoing noise problems:

Email the Cambridge Out of hours environmental health team

Email the manager of environmental health services

Email the contractor, Spencer Group, attn Diane Rowe (you can also try calling 01482 766340 but the number may not work)

Email the developer, GTR, attn Chris Penn and Steve Lammin

Help us complain about building an industrial trainwash in a residential area

Email the contractor, Spencer Group, attn Diane Rowe (you can also try calling 01482 766340 but the number may not work)

Write to the developer, GTR, attn Chris Penn and Steve Lammin

Publicise the problem on Twitter using #quashthetrainwash

Daniel Zeichner MP renews call for NetworkRail to suspend trainwash work

Daniel Ziechner, MP for Cambridge, has backed our call for NetworkRail to suspend work on the trainwash until such time as it has been through a planning process.

On the basis of our legal opinion and the CCC’s legal opinion, this development requires Prior Approval, which Network Rail did not seek.

Zeicher notes two points in particular. First, that work should be suspended to address the large number of unanswered questions about this particular development:

all works to be suspended until at least such time the stakeholders provide updated, suitable and full answers to the questions that have been
previously submitted by Cambridge City Council in February of this year.

And second, that the siting of the train wash in Cambridge has not been sufficiently addressed. An industrial train wash does not belong in a residential area:

The residents also would like Network Rail, and the associated rail franchisees, to provide a full and frank account for why the carriage wash facility was proposed for the main Cambridge rail station and not further up the line nearer Cambridge North. To assist with this response, they ask for disclosure of the complete options appraisal that was used to make the decision to site the facility at the former over the latter station.

This need to suspend work now is especially pressing because of the proposed “foundation” work on July 11, 18, and 25, referred to the leaflet distributed to residents on June 24. We have been informed by the CCC that this work will involve “piling” – a term that was not mentioned in the leaflet.

We understand that piling “is a type of deep foundation, used to transfer the load to a deeper level than is possible with a traditional shallow foundation. Vertical columns of concrete, steel or wood, or a combination, are driven deep into the ground to give extra support.”

NetworkRail, GTR, Greater Anglia, and Spencer Group have not provided any evaluation of the effect of piling on foundations in Great Eastern Street. Foundation damage is possible unless a detailed and in depth structural analysis has been done on the surrounding area.

NetworkRail has not sought Prior Approval. As such, we believe that any work currently undertaken is at risk of damage claims on the basis of being ruled not just unlawful but also aggravated due to being continued in the face of, at the very least, legal uncertainty,and at most, a known overreach of NetworkRail’s authority.

As developers and contractors, GTR and Spencer Group, have a responsibility to both their shareholders/beneficiaries and the Cambridge community to suspend unlawful work, including enabling work, while this issue is under review.

GTR and Spencer Group have the opportunity to demonstrate that you are “good neighbours”, by suspending work voluntarily rather than by enforcement. The community would consider this a show of good faith,

Daniel Zeichner’s full letter is below.


Unlawful: CCC agrees trainwash requires prior approval

In an email to residents, Stephen Kelly, Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development, confirmed on Monday 6 July that the Great Eastern Street train wash require prior approval of the Cambridge City Council. Mr Kelly wrote:

The Council have now had a response from Network Rail and have had an opportunity to consider that response further. I have accordingly emailed Network Rail today to advise them that in the opinion of the LPA, the works to construct the train wash building require the Prior Approval of the LPA by virtue of Class A of Part 18 of Schedule 2 of the Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order.

Network Rail, GTR, Greater Anglia, and their contractor Spencer Group appear to have overreached their authority.

It is especially urgent that we received this confirmation of our position yesterday because the companies plan to start enabling works this weekend on July 11. While a leaflet was sent to residents indicating that some foundational works were to begin, noting noise in the evenings, we have now heard that this work will involve ‘Piling’. “Piling is a type of deep foundation, used to transfer the load to a deeper level than is possible with a traditional shallow foundation. Vertical columns of concrete, steel or wood, or a combination, are driven deep into the ground to give extra support.”

NetworkRail, GTR, Greater Anglia, and Spencer Group have not provided any evaluation of the effect of piling on foundations in Great Eastern Street. Foundation damage is possible unless a detailed and in depth structural analysis has been done on the surrounding area.

We urge Network Rail, GTR, Greater Anglia, and Spencer group to act like the good neighbours they claim to be and agree to pause this work at least until such time as the lawfulness of this development is established.

If the companies will themselves step up, we urge the Cambridge City Council to enforce a pause on this work at least until such time as the lawfulness of this development is established.

Was community consultation just for show? Train wash site preparation may have begun without permission

It is June 2020 and amidst the pandemic it looks like full steam ahead (!) for GTR, Network Rail, and Greater Anglia to develop their train wash facility – despite the Cambridge City Council (CCC) having told residents on May 22nd that they are still seeking advice on the lawfulness of the development.

In response to two letters from our legal team (most recently on May 6), Stephen Kelly has indicated that Network Rail is dragging its feet in responding to CCC. On May 22 Kelly wrote:

Following the Councils own advice, I wrote earlier this month to Network Rail seeking clarification on a number of specific matters to assist the Planning Authority in determining the matter of lawfulness and have not yet received a response. I have accordingly written again today to try and determine when I might receive a response from them.

GTR’s website proposes that work on the train wash was to begin in Spring 2020. We are now just days away from the official start of Summer 2020 (June 20), and residents have noted increased activity on both sides of the Mill Road Bridge (see gallery below). Construction noise has been on the rise and much discussed amongst GES residents – as we have been getting our daily exercise during the lock-down, its becoming harder to avoid the work.

Daniel Zeichner, member for Cambridge, CCC Romsey Counsellors, and residents are adamant that work must not begin before a determination of the lawfulness of the development.

Network Rail should be held to a date to respond to the CCC so that the next steps in a transparent planning process can begin,

GTR and Greater Anglia (as the developers and operators), and Spencer Group (as the construction contractors), should live up to their promise to be “good neighbours” and pause work until Network Rail goes seeks a Certificate of Lawful Development. Without it, they risk developing a facility that will be deemed unlawful and subject to legal action.

Summary and thoughts from the online public GTR meeting from 13th May

Wednesday 13th May GTR organised an online ‘public’ meeting to update on the situation with the train wash and more generally the Cambridge siding upgrade.

The first positive aspect was that there was a broader panel of people in comparison to the previous meetings, in particular for the first time a representative of Network Rail which raised hope that we may have some answers to our questions regarding the planning permission that has been repeatedly raised (spoiler alert, we didn’t).

At the beginning of the meeting we agreed to let the presenter go through their presentation without interruption with questions to be answered at the end. Our resident representative had intervened at the beginning to make clear the questions that we wanted to see answered:  the legality of the lack of planning permission for the train wash, the choice of the location, and the other options explored. At this stage Network Rail acknowledged that they were working at providing answers to Cambridge City Council regarding the lack of planning permission as a direct consequence of our legal action.

The presentation was mostly a presentation of:

  • the impact of COVID-19 on the workers way of working
  • the advancement of the siding work on the south side of the bridge
  • additional modelling and alternative design of the train wash for the sound, vibration, shadow impact and light pollution in response to some of the questions from previous meetings
  • Network Rail discussed the situation of Cambridge North site, the other locations options they considered after the sale of Cambridge north site (0), repeated that they believe they don’t need planning permission but that they are now in discussions with Cambridge City Council to try and prove that it is a lawful development following the communication sent by our lawyer.
  • Details on the train wash machinery and the expected number of trains entering and leaving the depot, as well as the number of trains going through the wash.

In summary, not much new information in comparison to the last 2 meetings and the same repeated information with just a tiny bit more detail and the delay caused by COVID19.

Most of the questions asked by residents were regarding the planning permission and the lack of transparency. One of the questions asked that left all the members unable to answer was how many locations were put into consideration and put forward to a committee before deciding. It became clearer that the Cambridge North option was ruled out as early as 2016 as this land was sold off, and that the Romsey location for the train wash was set by GTR/Network Rail side at this time. That means that for more than 3 years GTR/NR was fully aware of their project, yet no consultation or clear description of what was to be built in the depot was provided to the community or council. In particular on the planning permission GTR/NR applied for when they performed the bridge work during the summer 2019, they had already all relevant information and clearly misrepresented that on their application. We have been emphasizing this lack of transparency for almost the entire time we were invited to discuss with GTR. The fact is it is not just a Romsey train wash problem, it seems that this lack of transparency has been repeated several times with the same pattern: GTR/NR are using their privileged position to perform work with as little transparency as possible and push forward their plan and deciding on their own that they can use the permitted development scheme (railway act etc). When neighbours start to realise what is happening, and the impact on their community, they are being told that there is no alternative and the decision has already been made. This needs to change.

We then focussed on the permitted development topic which has been a consistent question from the residents since January and we still don’t have a clear answer. When we asked on which basis Network Rail had decided that it was a permitted development, especially when it involves new parking and new access road, NR couldn’t give an answer and mentioned that they cannot submit a planning permission for every work they do… Well, welcome to everybody else’s world where if you want to build such a gigantic structure in the middle of a residential area, or even just a bike shed, you have to apply and consult with others.

We were a bit surprised that the work is carrying on. GTR mentioned that the train wash work has not started yet as it is just a small part of the depot with the siding works being more important and planned to be delivered by end of June. This is emphasizing the size of the project and that it is more than just Great Eastern Street residents that will be affected by this depot. There will be considerable traffic of workers, cars and trains throughout the night. Residents along the railway from Rustat Road up to Cromwell Road will be affected. Greater Anglia were a bit clearer with the number of trains being washed; they are expecting around 25 trains being washed at night and double that for the traffic in and outside the depot. That will mean constant motor noise throughout the night of trains lining up and idling along the railway. So far the modelling they presented us is referring to only the train wash structure but the real discomfort may come from the constant motor noise of trains.  We are already experiencing this sporadically and this will become more constant and way above the 40dB level they are promising us.

One surprising part of the presentation was that GTR thinks the Ironworks buildings will provide more shade onto our properties than the train wash. This seems like a bold statement and we wonder how much contact they had with our new potential neighbours about this?

As residents we had decided that we wanted to use this meeting to focus on the legal aspects of planning and to get answers to our previous questions, so all the focus was clearly on this. That doesn’t mean there was nothing to say about the other parts of their presentation. At the end the feeling is there is still some effort to do in term of transparency and taking the resident concern from GTR side. An attendee from the media at the end who managed to ask outright if the Cambridge city council had agreed on GTR’s plan there seemed to be a bit of confusion as some of the presenters had contradicted each other.