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Plans to upgrade the Shepreth Branch Junction (SBJ) are in progress led by Network Rail, aiming to support existing rail networks and enable expansion.
Shepreth Branch Junction (SBJ) is the point in Great Shelford where the rail lines to London diverge – one the Liverpool Street line, which then passes through Shelford station, and the other the King’s Cross line, which passes under Cambridge Road and continues towards Foxton. A historical note, because the name causes confusion: in the early days of the railway the only route from Cambridge to London was today’s Liverpool Street line (formally known as the West Anglia Main Line). A branch was built off this line to Shepreth, which is how the junction got its name: it was the junction for the Shepreth branch. The link from Shepreth to Hitchin to join the East Coast Main Line (now known formally known as the Cambridge Line) came slightly later, but the junction’s name remained.
SBJ is north of the Granham’s Road level crossing. The aerial photograph below shows how properties in Abberley Wood are close to both lines. The King’s Cross line also runs past residential properties in Granham’s Close and Davey Crescent.
At present, trains on the King’s Cross line are required to slow to 30mph to negotiate the pointwork at the junction. Trains on the Liverpool Street route, which have a straight passage through the junction, can maintain the line speed of 90mph. As part of the work to accompany the construction of Cambridge South station, Network Rail wish to enable trains on the King’s Cross line to pass through at 50 mph instead of 30 mph. Essentially this involves moving the pointwork further north and reducing its angles, and a slight realignment (by 1.2 metres at the maximum point) of the curve on the King’s Cross line.
Some members of the Traffic and Transport Infrastructure Working Group met two representatives from Network Rail online on 22 February. Below is an extract from a summary provided by NR after that meeting, in which the “new station” is Cambridge South and the King’s Cross line is referred to as the “Royston line”.
“Works to Shepreth Branch Junction
Stopping services at the new station, if built, have the potential to slow down all services; the works to upgrade Shepreth Branch Junction will help us to maintain train performance levels for passengers. To permit trains to travel at higher speeds (from 30mph to 50mph) along the curve of the Royston line and through the junction will require realigning the track on the Curve and installing a short section of a third line, i.e. new track to the north west of the existing junction.
The radius of the Curve is at present quite tight. In addition, drivers currently enter the Curve from the south with a degree of caution due to the existing positions of the signals.
The works we are proposing on the Curve will widen the radius which will reduce the noise generated by the wheels of trains on the rails. We also intend to reposition the signals which will enable drivers to continue through the Curve without slowing down or stopping and subsequently accelerating or re-starting; running at constant speed will cause less noise.
Should any increase in noise be identified as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment being undertaken for the Scheme, appropriate mitigation measures will be developed. Any such measures will take into account the location of properties within the Conservation Area and the setting of Listed Buildings.
If approval is granted by the Secretary of State for Transport, we will need to agree a Code of Construction Practice with the Local Planning Authority that will identify how construction impacts such as traffic, noise, vibration and dust will be monitored, controlled and managed, as well as setting out working hours.
The works on the Curve will be within the existing Network Rail boundary, so no land from properties on either side of the curve will be required for access or construction purposes.
Access road to Shepreth works
Construction traffic will use a temporary haul route from the north, off Addenbrooke’s Road. The workforce will arrive in minibuses from Granham’s Road.
We (NR) are in consultation with Historic England (HE) regarding Scheduled Monument 1006891 (West of White Hill Farm) as our proposed haul route will cross that parcel of land. We have submitted details of our proposals for ground investigation and construction to HE, and we will comply with the advice received from them.”
This diagram is also helpful:
On completion of the project, access to the fields on the west of the line will be from Addenbrooke’s Road instead of across the private level crossings, which will be removed.
Of note is that Network Rail has been instructed not to do anything which would impede future four-tracking between SBJ and Cambridge South station, which may become necessary if East-West Rail approaches Cambridge from the south. However, the impact of additional track will in itself be low and is not part of the reasoning for opposing East-West Rail.
The Parish Council is seeking to inform local people on the plans and potential benefits/impact. The Parish Council has made its concerns clear to Network Rail and is engaging in continued communication.
Network Rail have assured us that there will be further opportunities for consultation as the scheme requires a Transport and Works Act order and a compulsory purchase order is involved.
Great Shelford Parish Council – Current Position
The Parish Council understands the rationale for the project but will need to be satisfied by the Code of Construction Practice on the environmental impact during construction and on overnight working.
Disturbance and disruption to local residents must be managed and mitigated by Network Rail.
- There may some benefits once the scheme is completed, in terms of local infrastructure and possibly in noise reduction, but this has not yet been fully assessed.
- In the construction phase it will be important to ensure that the haul road and the construction work do not cause damage to Hobson’s Brook or Hobson’s Conduit.
- If some of the work of necessity takes place at night when trains are not running, there may be the risk of noise disturbance to residents. The Parish Council will engage with Network Rail to explore the potential impact.
- It appears that this work will go ahead, independent of plans for Cambridge South Station or East West Railway, although of course this work may be of benefit to both projects. Each is being championed by a different organisation with individual objectives and plans and the cumulative impact is hard to assess because of this.
- It looks as though there will be a period when work on SBJ will be taking place simultaneously with work on the CSET busway. This will not impact the bulk of the village, but residents of the portion of Granhams Road between the two projects may be impacted.