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Bedford Borough Council Launches Rail Investment Strategy

January 12, 2020 9:00 AM
Originally published by Dave Hodgson - Mayor of Bedford Borough

Bedford Railway Station SignBedford Borough Council has launched a Rail Investment Strategy, setting out priorities for railway services for Bedford Borough.

The Council's vision is for Bedford Borough to be a great place to live, work and visit and to create a Borough that attracts international business and highly skilled and sustainable jobs. Rail services are a key part of supporting economic growth and prosperity, and to improve life choices for people living here as the population grows.

The priorities of the Rail Investment Strategy focus around new and better connectivity and new and better stations.

The Council has laid out its plan to work with rail industry parties including Network Rail and the Department for Transport. The Council will push for Bedford Borough to have better rail connectivity through East West Rail linking us to Oxford and Cambridge and then through to the Thames Valley, East Anglia and the West Midlands.

In addition the Council is looking bigger, towards creating international connections via HS2. Bedford Borough Council is working with a number of stakeholders to develop a business case for a service from Bedford to Leeds, via Leicester and the East Midlands via HS2.

In the long term, this would see Bedford station acting as an interchange connecting the town to Leeds and Nottingham in the north, Norwich and Ipswich in the east, Sussex to the south and to the South West through Oxford.

Alongside the substantial national and regional connectivity that would be available through interchange at Bedford, the station would serve as a hub for access to six international airports (Birmingham, East Midlands, Stansted, Gatwick, Heathrow, and Luton).

As part of this, Bedford Midland station and the area around it would be rejuvenated, creating an interchange and gateway to our town as part of the Town Centre Masterplan.

The other element of the priority for new and better stations centres around Wixams. A railway station at the Wixams has always been part of the concept, and the Council is leading on the development of the station, as an important enabler to the growth of the Oxford-Cambridge arc. Current plans would deliver four Thameslink trains per hour each way calling at the station, with opening targeted for late 2023.

Mayor Dave Hodgson said "This Rail Investment Strategy is a high level document, setting out our priorities to improve Bedford's connectivity which will improve our economy, increase potential for growth, and make it easier for local residents to travel and for visitors to come to our town. The Council's role in the various elements of this Strategy is different, in some the Council will play a lead role, in others it will be a key influencer pushing the case for Bedford Borough to the people who make the decisions. While much of what we hope to achieve is inevitably looking to the long term, we have set out steps for the next 12 months. These including engaging with East Midlands Railway to secure the best inter-city service for residents; continuing to develop the Wixams station; pushing for an East West Rail Central Section that delivers for Bedford; and starting to create a partnership for the redevelopment of Bedford Midland station."