17:17 Thursday 6th November 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: A business group claims Network Rail has missed an opportunity as they announced plans to upgrade the rail line between Cambridge, Stansted Airport and London. They say it doesn’t go far enough, and say the route needs major upgrading, not just modest improvements. Richard Schofield is the Route Managing Director at Network Rail. He says there isn’t the demand in the area for that level of growth.
RICHARD SCHOFIELD: We welcome views of people that think we’ve got it wrong, but if you look at the needs over the next decade, there isn’t the volume of growth that would justify a business case to do that piece of work. But we welcome the input from Stansted Airport and the businesses and Transport for London around what they think we should be doing, so that we can create a business case that we can send to Government and say look, actually we think there is a greater need.
CHRIS MANN: However he said if a Government report showed there’s going to be an increase in passenger numbers at Stansted, they would reconsider.
RICHARD SCHOFIELD: So we would then work with stakeholders and Government to put together a plan that addresses the need to get passengers to Stansted in even greater numbers. But we can’t really second guess the outcome of that report, but we will of course take it into mind as we go through next year.
CHRIS MANN: That was Network Rail’s Richard Schofield. Let’s bring in councillor Kevin Bentley, the Chair of Infrastructure at the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium. Hello Kevin.
KEVIN BENTLEY: Good evening.
CHRIS MANN: They say there’s not enough demand. What’s your evidence that it’s otherwise?
KEVIN BENTLEY: Well just look at it. Look at the fantastic growth that’s happening in Cambridgeshire, not just in the bio-tech industries, but all industries, plus the great science parks we have in Cambridge as well. Just down the road in Harlow, the Enterprise Zone, the Government’s own Enterprise Zone that we’re working so hard to make happen down there and it’s going to be fantastic. Then you go down the line further into London, plus of course Stansted Airport, which is set to grow in passenger numbers. All the evidence is there. We have presented this before. I just don’t understand what Network Rail’s doing. They’ve missed a golden opportunity. We’re going to prove them wrong.
CHRIS MANN: But they say quite categorically, you heard the man say that there’s no demand. Have you done a survey?
KEVIN BENTLEY: Yes we have, and we’ve got the evidence. We’re going to take the evidence to Network Rail. We’ve written to them several times. They have said if you’ve got evidence bring it to us. We’re going to take it to them again and show them the evidence. They’ve missed a golden opportunity. Listening to those clips it sounded like half way through he wasn’t sure whether you’d got the right answer. He’s got the wrong answer.
CHRIS MANN: Some people might say that improving what’s there at the moment might be a good start. I don’t know if you look at the Twitter feeds about right now actually, and people are complaining every night about what’s going on.
KEVIN BENTLEY: Certainly it needs improving. That needs to happen anyway. But actually greater improvements, four tracking out of London, is critically important. You have an excellent growth corridor, which is what the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium is all about. It brings local authorities together and it brings businesses together. We have one clear message. We need to improve this line for the benefit of everyone, passengers and the economy, and also companies looking to invest in the area. Infrastructure is important. We’re working on the M11. We’re doing our bit for local government as well as businesses. Now Network Rail needs to step up and do their bit.
CHRIS MANN: Isn’t your secret agenda to get a second runway at Stansted? That’s what this is all about.
KEVIN BENTLEY: No no no. This is about actually bringing businesses into Harlow ..
CHRIS MANN: But you do want that don’t you?
KEVIN BENTLEY: That’s not the question. The question is about meeting the demand ..
CHRIS MANN: But you do want that don’t you.
KEVIN BENTLEY: No, that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about ..
CHRIS MANN: But you do want that don’t you.
KEVIN BENTLEY: No, what I’m talking about is businesses coming in to those Enterprise Zones in Harlow and into Cambridge. That’s what we are talking about.
CHRIS MANN: So where do you stand on the second runway at Stansted?
KEVIN BENTLEY: And meeting the demand about increased passenger numbers which they have planning permission for. This is not about the second runway at Stansted. That is not even on the table for discussion at the moment. This is about meeting the demand we know is going to come to the businesses coming into Harlow and Cambridge.
CHRIS MANN: Well I’ve spoken to people from the Consortium and it seems apparent that this is all about preparing the infrastructure in this part of the world for a possible second runway at Stansted. Where do you stand on that?
KEVIN BENTLEY: No that’s what you’re saying. The second runway at Stansted is not on the table for discussion at the moment. What we’re talking about is ..
CHRIS MANN: I asked your opinion. That’s all Kevin. Where do you stand on it? It’s a reasonable question.
KEVIN BENTLEY: My view at the moment is very clear, and that’s about getting the growth needed in those areas at Harlow and at Cambridge and at North London. That’s what we need to concentrate on. The second runway is not part of the conversation at the moment.
CHRIS MANN: Kevin, obviously not as far as you’re concerned. Councillor Kevin Bentley, thank you. Chair of Infrastructure at the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium.