Future Cities Forum is delighted that Will Gallagher, Strategy Director, East West Railway Company (EWR Co.) will be speaking at our 20th November forum in Cambridge - 'Science cities'.
EWR was set up by the government in 2017 as an arm's length body to develop a new rail line to connect Oxford with Cambridge via Bedford. By creating a new direct rail connection between these cities, it will serve the communities along the route, bringing faster journey times, lower transport costs as well as easing the pressure on local roads.
The company is working with Network Rail and the East West Rail Alliance to deliver the western section between Oxford and Bedford, while leading the delivery of the central section between Bedford and Cambridge. EWR also collaborates with the East West Rail Consortium which is a group of local authorities committed to improving access to and from East Anglia and the Milton Keynes South Midlands Growth Area.
This connectivity and the joined-up planning of infrastructure, housing and jobs will be discussed at our November forum as well as the benefits of linking the knowledge clusters, science parks and world-leading research departments of Oxford and Cambridge's universities.
Director of Planning and Economy at Cambridge City Council Stephen Kelly will also be speaking at the forum and explained to Future Cities Forum why infrastructure investment is so essential to the success of the city and the wider region:
'Cambridge has an extraordinary economy which creates nuances that most planners would never have to worry about. Do we prioritise a planning decision for the life sciences or for the agri-tech community? Do we assess a request on a global or on a national priority level?
'We have the biggest City Deal in the UK - at £500 million - and this has to work in collaboration with county council, with the University, the elected mayor, and the sub-national transport boards and also the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. Our aim, as a city council, is to give communities confidence that there is a plan. Some Cambridge-based employers are growing at 100 new workers per month, which gives you some idea of the growth issues we face, with stretched housing and transport resources.
'What business wants is to know who to talk to and then to know that decisions will happen, but with each level of governance it gets more complex. Horizons for business planning are much shorter than for the public sector and for infrastructure. Planning and building a new railway station can take 10 to 12 years, for instance.'
'How do you provide certainty for communities and business in a complex governance environment? We need to think about what our strategic strengths as a city are globally,
relative to places like Stanford in California and science and technology clusters in France and Germany as it's competitive world. The world changes faster than the pace of a local plan.
'The real issue on infrastructure is that we have a deregulated utilities sector which has different delivery plans compared to public infrastructure and also different to big national projects like HS2 In the Cambridge economy companies often grow at rates which are incompatible with local delivery time frames. China, with very different political governance, can build infrastructure at a radically different pace so how do we compete?
'We need to be more sophisticated in how we resolve planning complexities. Planning permission for much needed housing at Waterbeach seven miles north west of the city - with 6,500 new dwellings - has recently been agreed but permission for the additional and vital road capacity, which involves the combined authority, will take longer to achieve.