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East Midlands Rail Franchise Invitation To Tender

June 8, 2018 4:55 PM

A summary of the government's specification for the next East Midlands rail franchise, published yesterday: Bedford is almost entirely removed from from the intercity rail network. We'll be a stop on a Corby to London 'commuter-style' service instead, with the exception of a couple of trains in the morning northbound and 3 in the evening southbound.

This is in spite of the fact that Bedford rail users made an overwhelming case via the consultation that Bedford must not lose intercity fast trains. The government has let them down again, in a big way.

The 'Invitation to Tender' for the new Franchise from August 2019 requires bidders to run fast intercity services between the north/midlands and London which don't stop south of Kettering, and a 'commuter-style' service between Corby and London, stopping at Bedford.

Those wanting to go further north than Kettering from Bedford at most times of day will have to change at Kettering, from where there will be just one intercity train an hour.

The only exception to this is that there will be what looks like 2 trains going north from Bedford to Leicester in the morning, and 3 trains back in the evening. That is one improvement on the proposals consulted on, and will be a relief for those who travel north of Kettering for work, at broadly conventional hours.

Overall, however, when the government is insisting on massive additional housebuilding in Bedford Borough, this downgrade in our rail infrastructure is appalling. It's also a big slap in the face to the huge numbers of local people who responded to the consultation, attended the public meeting and gave up their time and energy to make an overwhelming case that Bedford should retain intercity trains.

There are over 100 stations served by the franchise, from London to Sheffield to Liverpool, yet a massive 39% of respondents to the consultation were from Bedford! Government officials said the meeting turnout in Bedford was the biggest they had ever seen. Those people said very clearly that they did not want Bedford to lose intercity trains, due to the loss of connectivity to the north, slower journey times, comfort, fewer amenities etc. They have been ignored, and taken for granted by the government.

It's a huge missed opportunity to enhance connectivity on the line, too. The government pays lip service to this but doesn't support it in practice. We have Thameslink, and we will have East West Rail to Oxford and later to Cambridge, yet they will not connect with Midland Mainline intercity services. I'll keep lobbying the bidders to seek to exceed the tender requirements where they can, and government to ask them why they have seen fit to almost completely ignore such an overwhelming response to the consultation from this area.

You can sign Mayor Dave Hodgson's petition calling for the return of intercity trains at Bedford here.