Julian Huppert on the New Cambridge North Station

Sunday, May 21st, 2017. 12:50pm

I got the chance to speak to Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat candidate to become Cambridge’s MP, on the first train into Cambridge from Cambridge North on the 21st of May:

Richard Taylor: So what’s your role in bringing the station to Cambridge North?

Julian Huppert: It’s something I’ve been banging on for ages about, so the idea had been around for thirty years or something but when I became a councillor for East Chesterton I saw this as a crucial thing to fix the challenges that we have with transport.

Richard Taylor: So you were able to lobby for this just as a councillor, local councillors are that influential?

Julian Huppert: So I started as a County Councillor and I got a bit of stuff there but I couldn’t get it over the threshold, there was no interest in supporting infrastructure in this area, you know government did the guided bus, that was where the money went.

Julian Huppert: I got on to the regional assembly and was on the executive of that.

Richard Taylor: So this was a long time ago then?

Julian Huppert: Yes this was 2005 or so and managed to get this listed as the number one infrastructure bid for the whole of the East of England which I was quite pleased about. We discovered that the government was allocating a total of zero pounds for our infrastructure. So while it was number one, it still didn’t happen.

Julian Huppert: Then as the MP I managed to get the transport minister to come here, Theresa Villiers, made the case really strongly to her and the county also got lots of other people behind it so we could say we will do this, and that’s what kicked it off. There were a lot of steps then about making sure the department would write the right letters, make sure the council would write the right letters, and obviously I didn’t actually physically build it myself, but it was fascinating to see the whole thing almost veer completely off the rails and I’d have to go into the Department for Transport again and say look you know you have to fix this and no you can’t do something daft like that, something silly like that, and we’ve seen you know I obviously lost a couple of years ago… we’ve seen lots you know … why aren’t there more stations, trains stopping here.

Richard Taylor: Presumably that will happen?

Julian Huppert: It will happen, but it needs somebody who will keep pressing on it.

Richard Taylor: So our next MP, you as our next MP?

Julian Huppert: I would absolutely

Richard Taylor: More trains in the morning from Waterbeach in the morning, better connections when the trains come into Cambridge?

Julian Huppert: Absolutely, also I want to get the other, the equivalent station in Addenbrookes which again has been a vision for a long time, we have very old livery versions of the sidings for Addenbrookes, that will be equally hugely important.

Julian Huppert: The East-West rail line that goes out there is important for transport and also for housing along that route.

Julian Huppert: So some small things, just to be really picky, the tracks for bikes to go down the stairs…

Richard Taylor: I saw you looking at that

Julian Huppert: They’ve been placed right next to the side, and that’s simply just not acceptable, so actually did while I was here, it’s not just a fun trip was to talk to some of the people who will be fixing any problems and I got someone to show all the problems with moving your bike up which I think the got now so. So they’ve promised they’ll fix it, let’s make sure that happens.

Richard Taylor: That’s really interesting because when you say you’ve worked to get the station it’s really interesting just to know the details and know what you’ve actually been doing.

Julian Huppert: It obviously wasn’t just me, there have been other people who’ve talked about this but actually having that ability as a councillor on the regional assembly and as an MP to really put the oomph into it to make it actually happen and that to me is really important. It doesn’t show up in voting records, and often takes a while to happen, that’s why it’s so good to see it.

Richard Taylor: It’s a fantastic, quality, station.

Julian Huppert: Is everything perfect, no. Do I have visions of how I’d make it better, absolutely, but it’s something which.. I have friends who live just where we’re going past now who got so bored of me saying, I was pushing it was going to happen and they said it’s really never happening.

Richard Taylor: Something we really need in this area is signage, to it, if you go on Fen Road they haven’t got signs up and we’ve got temporary signs on Milton Road.

Julian Huppert: Which is astonishing, it is not as if they didn’t know this was happening. How long does it take to print a sign? No I think there’s real problems with some of the infrastructure around it and it has taken a couple of years longer than it should have done. I think there are real questions about how Network Rail in particular go about these programmes.

Richard Taylor: About how they’re influenced by local people, as they are national?

Julian Huppert: Well there’s several things, there’s whether they talk to local people enough, but there’s also whether they get things to happen properly. This should have happened a couple of years faster; it should have happened twenty years ago, but at least it has happened.

Richard Taylor: When do you think we’re going to get the Addenbrooke’s station?

Julian Huppert: I’m hoping in five years, it could be sooner, but I haven’t been able to push that ahead in the last couple of years as I was doing but I think it will tie in with the East-West rail line. That’s crucial as well, because that means firstly strategically we connect Ipswich, Norwich through Cambridge, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Reading Oxford which means it is not just about Cambridge it’s also if you want to go up any of the other mainlines, rather than going to London and back out again, you can come across and up. Another thing I want to see is new garden towns along that rail line, there are a number of sites which will be about fifteen minutes from Addenbrookes by train, twenty from the centre, twenty-five from the Science Park – put twenty thousand homes there, it’ll be really attractive, do it nicely, good environmental standards, got the community, it’ll be really attractive then for people who want to work in Cambridge, rather than driving down the A10 or any of the other roads, if you’re fifteen minutes from Cambridge it’s fantastic.

Richard Taylor: So Cambridge has definitely grown beyond the point where everyone can live in the centre and walk and cycle?

Julian Huppert: We already …. I still would love people to walk and cycle as much as possible but we’re not going to have everybody who walks in Cambridge..

Richard Taylor: That’s now not practical given..

Julian Huppert: We’re just far too big for that so making it easy for people to get to the Science Park and areas around that, making it easier for people in the North of Cambridge to take the train to London or wherever without having to go into town all the time. You know I used to live in East Chesterton by the Golden Hind, and the idea that to get up to Ely you had to

Richard Taylor: Go there other way first…

Julian Huppert: Go the other way and then back out again, it’s so much faster now.

Richard Taylor: Thanks Julian that’s really interesting.

One comment/update on “Julian Huppert on the New Cambridge North Station

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    Later on the first day of operation I had the chance to put the same question I put to Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert to Conservative Nick Clarke:

    Richard Taylor : You were the leader of the County Council for two years or so while the station was coming, so what was your role in bringing this station to North Cambridge?
    Nick Clarke : Well when I first become leader Richard I asked, I think it was Graham Hughes, at the time, he works for the County Council, to bring be a list of all the capital projects that really should have come forward but had failed to do so due to funding or lack of leadership, or just too difficult and to prioritise them. Cambridge Station North the Chesterton Station, whatever you want to call was way and above the most obvious project which should have gone ahead, the payback times were short, the need was clear to remove some of the congestion in Cambridge itsself, this new station will be fantastic. So I think within a few weeks, if not months, I convened my cabinet, we discussed it at great length and gave it the go-ahead, and by doing that we agreed to fund it.
    Richard Taylor : So there was some County Council funding for this and it was a question for you and your cabinet to decide whether it goes ahead?
    Nick Clarke : Yes, there’s always funding for everything if it’s right to do it for the people for Cambridgeshire and remember we had a borrowing headroom that was quite significant which means that there was plenty of room for us to borrow money to borrow money for the right infrastructure projects and this was one of the obvious ones. But when we move through that story and we were talking to Network Rail it was clear that they had issues with the sidings here anyway as they were and they needed to shift them all around and as time moved on I think they then took the lead in the funding, so I’ve lost track of it now, if the truth be known, but from my understanding…
    Richard Taylor : So when you were leader you were prepared to fund it locally, from the County Council, even though now it has turned out to be there’s national money for it, national Government.
    Nick Clarke : Absolutely, and that leadership, I had meetings with Theresa Villiers at the time and ministers and all the rest of them to make sure this came forward. Now all those meetings are the ones I kept Julian Huppert away from because he’s such a blooming nuisance bobbing up and down seeking credit all the time.
    Richard Taylor : Wouldn’t you say that really this is something which is just inevitable with the growth of Cambridge and regardless of what you and Julian say about your role in it, it was going to happen and you’ve all played your part?
    Nick Clarke : You’d like to think so but it had been on the books for twenty years and within six months of taking office you know we turned it into reality. I mean for the average…
    Richard Taylor : So you think that was a turning point, you came into office and…
    Nick Clarke : Well it was, there’s no think about it. It is exactly what happened.
    Richard Taylor :So what role are you playing in the future of Cambridge from now onwards? What’s next for you?
    Nick Clarke : Nothing at all I suspect, nothing at all, but I am enjoying my golf at the moment.
    Nick Clarke : Well I was invited to come out here by John, the Conservative parliamentary candidate, you know John Hayward, he invited me out here to say Nick, I know you were involved with this, can we have a picture of you, of course we can John, no problem at all, and what’s interesting of course, we’ve got Labour people in Cambridge who normally have a lot to say about what I get up to also reinforcing the fact that it was our initiative that brought this station forward and I think it’s absolutely clear, and I will get this bit in, that you know, the LibDems attempting to claim credit for this is one of the very few things left in politics that gets me interested at all because it’s a downright disgrace.
    Richard Taylor : So what is it with the tone from you and John Hayward against the Liberal Democrats, now John Hayward said that Julian Huppert was a boring person, now why is that kind of personal attack part of our local politics?
    Nick Clarke : I have never said that Julian is boring.
    Richard Taylor :No but John Hayward did.
    Nick Clarke : I’m not in politics anymore so I can say just as I want, isn’t it fantastic, I have a real problem from people attempting to take credit for other people’s actions. I was taught that in the Royal Air Force we didn’t do things like that, my own personal standards are that you never do things like that, and the games the Liberal Democrats play are just beyond the pale as far as I’m concerned, it is wrong, when I’ve watched Julian in the past, attending meetings, turning up just long enough to tweet that he’d been there, before moving on to the next one, it is a game, I think he is very very good at it, he is a professional at his image creation but I’m afraid it’s not about image for me, it’s about substance.
    Richard Taylor : So you don’t think from his point of view, he’s done exactly what you’ve done, you’ve spoken to minister Theresa Villiers, he’s spoken to the minister, you’ve both made your case.
    Nick Clarke : It made no difference
    Richard Taylor :But when you made spoke it did?
    Nick Clarke : Because we were prepared to fund it. The big difference there, somebody prepared to put their hands in their pockets and take leadership to do it, that’s what made the difference and I had meetings with ministers. Because remember this isn’t in Cambridge, it’s not on Julian Huppert’s patch anyway so he wasn’t invited to these meetings, but Jim Paice who was responsible for this area was invited along with ministers and this happened so we can all lobby and we can all make noises and you’re an expert in your own right at doing this, but at some point someone has to take the problem by the tail and turn it into action.
    Richard Taylor : So you don’t give Julian the credit for the City Deal funding that’s come to Cambridge either then?
    Nick Clarke : Well to be fair, well that was of course set up without Julian’s help to begin with, but I don’t know is the answer, I’m not going to make any comment on that because I’m too far away from that story, but this particular one he had nothing to do with this station being here now, the one meeting that he attended that I was at with I think it was Theresa Villiers at the time was completely ineffectual and all the work took place after that.
    Richard Taylor : OK, thanks very much Nick.

    I am just presenting Nick Clarke’s views above; I have no evidence Julian Huppert ever attended a meeting only for long enough to tweet about it. I do though have enough faith in Julian Huppert’s character to be confident he won’t sue me for libel for republishing Nick Clarke’s words.

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