Cross-border commuter chaos warning from Stortford town council
Bishop's Stortford Town Council fears a commuter crisis unless a new railway line between Stansted Airport and Braintree is built as a condition of any new garden community along the A120.
Uttlesford and Braintree district councils are currently collaborating on plans for the new town of an estimated 12,000 dwellings east of Dunmow and members of the planning and development committee were invited to comment at their meeting in Windhill on Monday night.
The town council’s leader, Cllr John Wyllie, was emphatic that the scheme for farmland close to Rayne would result in thousands of extra train commuters converging on Stortford to travel on the West Anglia line into London Liverpool Street unless the government added the new track.
He said: “We must insist that if they are going to do anything there, they extend the line to stop commuters coming into Bishop’s Stortford.
“The first thing they must do is put the railway in.”
His concerns that there would be congestion and parking shortages both on residential roads and official facilities were backed by Cllr Keith Warnell, who said there was already clear evidence that rail commuters within a radius of at least 10 miles converged on Stortford. According to statistics from the Office of Road and Rail, there were 3,165,150 entries and exits at the station in 2016/17, up from 3,104,298 in 2015/16. That compares with 1,908, 242 at Harlow town, up from 1,850,868 over the same period.
He warned: “More and more people will come into Bishop’s Stortford.”
The town, Dunmow and Braintree were formerly linked by a railway line, but it closed to passengers in 1952. The last freight train passed through in 1972 and the route is now the Flitch Way nature trail. The councillors agreed a new line would also help Braintree and Uttlesford district residents working at Stansted Airport. Braintree’s railway station is around 5km (three miles) from the new town’s proposed site, but as part of the Braintree and Witham branch line, it has limited connectivity with one train per hour to the Great Eastern mainline. A strategic light rail, tram-train, or a guided or priority bus service linking the site to Stansted Airport have been proposed by its backers. A garden community of up to 10,000 homes is also proposed at Easton Park, off the A120 near Little Easton.