Cambridge North: more than just a station

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 17

Eliane Algaard, director of route asset management at Network Rail, reveals how the brand-new Cambridge North station came to life right in the heart of the region’s science and biology-themed surroundings.

Cambridge North is the region’s newest station, situated at the heart of the growing science park between Cambridge and Waterbeach stations, on the West Anglia Main Line in the north east quadrant of Cambridge. 

The idea for a station in this area originally came from Cambridgeshire County Council, in a bid to relieve congestion at the main Cambridge station and on the city’s busy road network. The location also supports current and future development sites associated with sub-regional growth, a significant proportion of which are located to the northern boundaries of the city and further afield along the A14 and A10 corridors. The station provides rail access onto the wider public transport network, including an interface with the guided busway with an integrated road and cycle path.  

A lot of thought has gone into the design of the station: the external cladding that wraps around the main building, overbridges and platform structures is based on the Game of Life cellular automaton devised by Cambridge University mathematician John Horton Conway. The ‘game’ is a zero-player game, meaning that its evolution is determined by its initial state, requiring no further input. One interacts with the Game of Life by creating an initial configuration and observing how it evolves or creates patterns with particular properties. A pattern adopting this algorithm has been perforated into metal panels and backlight to create a dominant and striking feature over the large public square. 

The building itself provides waiting areas, retail space and toilet facilities. A footbridge, which meets the requirements of the 2010 Equalities Act, provides access from the station building to all platforms, lifts and staircases. To the outside, there are 450 car parking spaces and 1,000 cycle spaces in racks that are covered with solar panels providing up to 10% of the station’s power. A brown roof was also included in the specification, using materials from the surrounding environment to promote biodiversity enhancement and help the station blend in with its science and biology-themed surroundings. 

The project was delayed in the early stages by planning issues, as control for the scheme was transferred from Cambridgeshire County Council to Network Rail. Moving a siding closer to the main line, opening up a larger area for development and allowing the car park to be built adjacent to the main line was also included in an addendum application. 

By early 2016, the project team began carrying out early works to the track, points, overhead line cabling, power supply and freight sidings. By May last year, 60 tonnes of steel that made up the main frame of the building was constructed. Work continued apace to build lift shafts and platforms, while the main bridge span was put into place in October. 

Signalling was commissioned at Christmas and successfully tested by the beginning of April this year, allowing the first test trains to run to and from the station. The fit-out was completed and the station handed over to the train operator, Greater Anglia, in the same month. 

It is anticipated that around 3,000 passenger journeys will be made every day from the station. But it is so much more than just a new station, and this project proves how important the railway is to supporting and driving economic growth. By redeveloping the site, the DfT, Network Rail and Cambridgeshire County Council are releasing existing vacant and underused land for redevelopment, and providing new housing opportunities including family and student accommodation.




Lutz   10/07/2017 at 15:03

Based on the projected patronage numbers provided, with about 1 million p/a or less, does the investment represent good value money, or has the scheme been embellished with excessively expenditure for a limited number of users? I think the latter.

Andrew Gwilt   10/07/2017 at 19:41

More new railway stations are planned to be built. Including Beaulieu on the Great Eastern Main Line (London-Norwich route) between Chelmsford and Hatfield Peveral. On the outskirts of Chelmsford next to Boreham Interchange (A12/A130/A138). Cambridge North station is a very vibraint, clean & modern railway station in the Chesterton area and close to the Cambridge Business Park and the A14 Trunk Road.

Noam Bleicher   18/07/2017 at 09:57

It won't be long before passenger numbers vastly exceed the projections Lutz, given the experience of every reopening in recent years.

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