Chatteris to be the site of the Fenland Reservoir

Anglian Water made the announcement today – what will happen to the earth that will need to be excavated to make way for the huge volumes of water? Could a light rail line be constructed that can then be converted into a passenger line?

Above – an indication of where the reservoir will be located and how big it will be – i.e. just north of Chatteris (see G-Maps here)

Given the volume of earth that has to be moved, will a light rail line be constructed to reduce truck movements?

Crossrail used their tunnelling excavation deposits to create a new wildlife haven at Wallasea Island in Essex. Given the below sea level land around the site of the reservoir, Anglian Water could make the case for the excavated earth to be used for coastal nature reserves that could also act as soft flood barriers. The same could be said for parts of the Fens that could be re-wilded, such as the Great Fen project or Wicken Fen.

Given the huge number of truck loads of materiel that needs to be excavated, I think there is a case for a rail track to be constructed – one that could in part be powered by renewables – whether wind turbines and/or solar. I’m not pretending this would be sufficient – in the end it might simply come down to using diesel trains to pull them. But surely such a system would be more efficient than having lorries using the road network.

Alternatively, there is the option of using the New Bedford River (See the red balloon icon on the map below) to float barges on which could be used to transport the excavated earth downstream.

Above – from G-Maps here – Chatteris is at the bottom left, and a drop-off point for excavated earth is at the RSPB site.

Even if a rail line is not needed for the construction, it will be needed to improve public transport in Fenland – linking the local economy to Cambridge and Peterborough.

Given that the proposals include having the reservoir as a leisure, water sports, and wildlife/education centre, there’s a huge public interest in creating a sustainable public transport system to a place that currently has very poor transport links.

I put this concept together for a light rail loop.

Above – from G-Maps here

As a loop, rather than an A-to-B line, the concept enables a host of additional routes otherwise done by car, to be undertaken by light rail. Furthermore it enables the residents of rapidly-growing Cambridge to access leisure facilities that are outside of the city. Thus it reduces the pressure on the city to provide anything and everything , and enables the market towns to specialise in different leisure facilities that Cambridge does not have.

There’s also an opportunity for a Chatteris-Ramsey link to be incorporated into a Greater Peterborough loop.

I put the concept on the map below together following the release of the Census 2021 figures which revealed Cambridge’s population had risen to over 145,000 – see my blogpost here.

Although the Wisbech end would need work on it, the concept of a Greater Peterborough and Fenland loop would enable Ramsey and Chatteris to serve both the Peterborough and Cambridge economies (and societies). Furthermore, with lower land and property prices, there would be a greater incentive for some firms to move out of the cities and into the market towns in rural areas.

Could it work? Possibly? Will I live long enough to see such a scheme constructed? I have my doubts! Or rather, with longer term projects I am starting to feel my age where a 2035 early completion date for the proposed reservoir would have me in my mid-50s!

Anyone interested in developing the concept may want to get in touch with Rail Future East Anglia. Furthermore, Rail Future are holding a meeting in Cambridge in two months time on Saturday 3rd December 2022 – Cambridge at 14:00
The Signal Box Community Centre, Glenalmond Avenue, Cambridge CB2 8DB. Some of you may be interested in light rail generally – in which case see the LRTA.

Food for thought?

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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