What the FAQ? Our questions about GTR’s answers

GTR's website Frequently Asked Questions sectionGTR’s trainwash project website has a Frequently Asked Questions section which raises more questions than it answers.

Many of these questions were asked on the Feb 24 meeting, but we did not receive satisfactory answers. GTR promised that the website would provide more details. It does not, as you will see below.

The FAQ makes a lot of assertions but provides little evidence. Before we go point-by-point, we have some larger questions:

  • Where is the evidence for any of the FAQ’s answers?
  • Why was this evidence not included in any planning documents, even the Permitted Development application?
  • How can a project that is scheduled to start in April commence without comprehensive and complete plans?
  • Will Network Rail, GTR, and Greater Anglia comply with the Cambridge City Council’s request for a Certificate of Lawful Development, to provide transparent answers to all these questions?

Let’s take a look at GTR’s limited attempts to address community concerns, and our ongoing questions.

Noise and vibration

1. How loud will the new wash be?

We have carried out modelling exercises from other train washes on the existing railway infrastructure, to understand and mitigate what impact the carriage wash may have.
The modelling offers an indicative estimate of what noise the wash will make – circa 40db (at the worst-affected point along the residential boundary).

Improvements to reduce this impact are being explored and include consideration of the Noise Action Plan: Railways, Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006, amongst others.

The community’s questions:

  • Where is the modelling for the combination of noise from train movements and the washing facility?
  • Where is the modelling for the aggregate noise over a period of weeks and months?
  • Where is the modelling of vibration on the foundations or construction of nearby public and private property?
  • Where is the modelling of the effect of noise and vibration on human, animal, and plant health?
  • Why was vibration not dealt with in the FAQ?

Size of the trainwash

2. How big is the carriage wash?

The carriage wash itself will be housed inside an enclosure. Although not designed in detail yet, the enclosure will be approximately 9m high, 7m wide and 33m long.

The community’s questions:

  • Where are the precise dimensions?
  • Where is the modelling that shows the shadow to be cast from this throughout the year over residents’ backyards?
  • Why are there not precise dimensions available before building?
  • Shade cannot be mitigated by any visual treatment. What is GTR, Network Rail, and Greater Anglia’s plan for dealing with shade?
  • If the trainwash is built, will property owners and renters with houses backing on to the trainwash be compensated for their loss of amenity?

Location of the trainwash

3. Why must the carriage wash be built in the proposed location?

The relocation of the carriage wash is part of the upgrade of the existing Cambridge Depot sidings.
There is no other place within the depot where the wash will fit and work operationally.
The carriage wash has been sited between the north and south sidings in the only place where there is the available space to clean the exterior of a 12-carriage long train.
The train wash cannot be built away from Cambridge Depot, as this would split the depot across two locations with a journey along the mainline between them – which is operationally unfeasible.

The community’s questions:

  • Where is the evidence of the decision-making process for this location?
  • What assessment criteria were used, what locations were included and excluded, and why was this location chosen over others?
  • Why was the community not consulted at the time of this choice?
  • What information did GTR provide to the Ironworks development about the choice of this train wash development?
  • Why is it operationally infeasible for trains to move between two locations for cleaning and stabling, especially when the distance is so small?
  • Why was this entire development not built at Cambridge North?
  • What are the assessment criteria for making such a choice?
  • Where is the modelling for the effect on property values of siting an industrial scale trainwash in the middle of a residential neighbourhood which is itself in the middle of a conservation area?

Environmental pollution

4. What chemicals will be used?

Greater Anglia are still reviewing which chemicals to use. Part of the review process includes any potential environmental impact from the proposed chemicals when used, to both operational staff and the local surroundings.

The community’s questions:

  • Where is the full list of representative products that will be used and the chemicals therein?
  • If such a list is not available, how can the development proceed with an assessment of safety?
  • Where is the documentation of the full process involved in washing one train, including but not limited to volumes of products, water, waste disposal, etc. in a facility of this kind?
  • Where is the modelling of the health impacts from chemical dispersal and pollution (in air, water, and soil) used in this facility?
  • How will GTR respond to residents who have health conditions associated with these chemicals?
  • Where is the modelling of the ability of, and health factors involved in, the local water and sewer system to cope with the waste disposal needs of a facility of this kind?

Trains and traffic

5. How many trains will use the wash every night?

We anticipate up to 33 inbound and outbound trains into the sidings on weekdays, however not every carriage or vehicle will require to use the carriage wash.
The main hours of operation will be 18:00 – 06:00, and estimates show that no more than 4 trains per hour will use the wash during these times.

The community’s questions:

  • Where is the evidence of the volume of trains to use the facility? Where is GTR and Greater Anglia’s timetable, stabling details, and all other relevant volume data?
  • What was the volume of trains that used the now-demolished facility?
  • Where is the modelling of train traffic volume of the proposed new facility compared to the previous facility south of Mill Road bridge?
  • Where is the modelling of train traffic volume of the proposed new facility compared to a similarly sized trainwash?

Who is responsible?

6. What role is Govia Thameslink Railway playing in this upgrade?

Govia Thameslink Railway is delivering and managing the project on behalf of Network Rail. The depot itself is managed by Greater Anglia.

The community’s questions:

  • Why are GTR and Greater Anglia proceeding with development when Network Rail has put them both at risk of developing without a Certificate of Lawful Development?
  • Why is taxpayer’s money being gambled on developing without a Certificate of Lawful Development?


7. How was planning permission awarded?

Govia Thameslink Railway is not directly involved in the planning application process – this responsibility sits with Network Rail.

The full works were reviewed on the project; the works that sat outside of Part 8 of the General Permitted Development Order required pre-application process (18/1372/CAP18); others including the carriage wash were considered under the permitted development order.

The community’s questions:

  • Network Rail’s 18/5161PREAPP assumes that the trainwash falls under Schedule 2 Part 8 Class A of the GDPO 2015. However, this application — to the extent that we know — does not address “Development not permitted, A.1 (c)(i) “the construction or erection otherwise than wholly within a railway station of – (i) …a building used for an industrial process, or (ii) a car park…”. “Industrial process” is defined earlier in GDPO as “a process for or incidental to any of the following purposes … (b) the altering, repairing, maintaining, ornamenting, finishing, cleaning, washing, packing, canning, adapting for sale, breaking up or demolition of any article….” How is a trainwash not a building for the industrial process of washing an article (i.e. a train)?
  • Why were the full extent of the trainwash facility’s details not provided in 18/1372/CAP18 or 18/5161PREAPP?
  • Why was the community not consulted?
  • Will Network Rail comply with the request of the City Council to apply for a certificate or other instrument that specifically addresses the industrial train wash facility? If so, what is the timeline for submission? If not, what are the reasons for not applying?

Click here to read more about planning.

Light pollution

8. Will there be light pollution?

We are replacing the 30-foot gantry lights, with lower, focused lighting on the area, minimising the lighting impact and energy waste. This lighting is being designed in accordance with Network Rail sidings guidance.

The community’s questions:

  • Where is the guidance and modelling of this light?
  • Where is the modelling of all the associated lighting of trains, cars, and other areas that will contribute to light pollution?

Visual impact

9. What are doing to minimise the visual impact?

We are researching options which would reduce the visual impact of the carriage wash enclosure. These include different coloured cladding and a ‘living’ wall.

The community’s questions:

  • Why did it take GTR at least two years to provide images of the facility?
  • Why were these images not included in any prior applications for Permitted Development?
  • Where is the assessment of the visual impact of the train wash with respect to the surrounding conservation area?

Given all these questions, as we said above, will Network Rail, GTR, and Greater Anglia comply with the Cambridge City Council’s request for a Certificate of Lawful Development, to provide transparent answers?