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Council to Make Case to Government to Maximise Benefits of East West Rail for Residents and Minimise Impacts

May 25, 2021 9:37 PM

Bedford StationFollowing an extensive process to gather the views of local residents, Bedford Borough Council has published a draft response to the current East West Rail consultation based on maximising the many benefits of the project and minimising negative impacts on communities and the environment.

Analysis has shown that the new railway would give Bedford Borough a multi-million pound economic boost, creating hundreds of additional local jobs and linking Bedford with the thriving economies of both Oxford and Cambridge.

The Council's draft response, which will be publicly discussed at a virtual meeting of all councillors on Wednesday 2nd June, sets out how the benefits to Bedford Borough can be maximised, including:

  • A comprehensive redevelopment of Bedford Midland Station which supports regeneration of the station quarter, while including a new fast line platform to enable more north/south intercity services to serve Bedford.
  • Supporting the delivery of more homes in Bedford town centre - providing important new housing and reducing pressure for development on greenfield sites in the countryside.
  • Supporting East West Rail Company's shortlisted route alignment 1, which has a lower impact in respect of noise, visual impact, Scheduled Monuments & Conservation Areas than East West Rail Company's route alignment 9.
  • Delivering a new East West Rail station at Stewartby - serving Stewartby, Wixams, Wootton and the surrounding area to the south and south west of Bedford with direct trains to Cambridge.

The Council's response also proposes alterations to minimise the negative impacts of the East West Rail Company's proposals on local communities, in particular:

  • Avoiding the need for demolitions of homes including removing the need for any demolitions in the Poets area of Bedford through a four-track solution rather the proposed six-tracks north of Bedford Midland station, which a study has shown is achievable.
  • A major reduction in the viaduct required where the line passes south of Clapham, and the replacement of the proposed cutting to the east of Clapham around Carriage Drive with a tunnel.

Commenting, Mayor Dave Hodgson said: "This will be a once in a generation investment by the government that will bring more jobs and prosperity for our Borough. That's why we've produced a thorough response to the Government's plans, based on our analysis and our conversations with residents and Parish Councils over recent weeks. It's vital that the benefits of the railway are maximised while negative impacts are minimised and the need for the demolition of homes is removed, and we've demonstrated how to achieve that.'

"I have always made local jobs and a thriving local economy a top priority, and I know what a huge positive difference this project can make. If we passed up this opportunity for investment in vital infrastructure to link us directly with the thriving economies of Oxford and Cambridge, future generations would look back in disbelief. Our response is instead about making the most of the opportunity, and I thank everyone who has contributed to this process so far."

The current consultation by the East West Rail Company follows the Government's decision in January 2020 to select a Route Option passing through Bedford rather than bypassing the town to the south due to the lower environmental impact and the greater economic benefit of the route via Bedford.

Their previously rejected 'Route B' bypassing Bedford to the south via Wixams could have seen the demolition of 150 homes in Wixams and would have passed very close close to villages south of Bedford. Route B would also have passed through more extensive areas of flood plain, requiring longer viaducts and extensive mitigation measures to tackle flood risk and ecological effects. Network Rail plans show a southern route crossing the river on a viaduct right next to Great Barford,

Cllr Michael Headley, Bedford Borough Council Portfolio Holder with responsibility for Rail, added: "The Government's decision for the line to serve Bedford itself not only means more jobs and more economic growth, but also avoids the greater problems that a route south of Bedford would have caused. It is of course totally understandable that residents impacted by the chosen route would rather it went somewhere else. But that would mean a reduced economic benefit and fewer jobs, while also causing greater environmental and community impacts elsewhere.'

Bedford Borough Council's draft response to the East West Rail Company consultation will be discussed at a virtual public meeting of all councillors taking place at 6:30pm on Wednesday 2nd June. The Council's draft response to the consultation can be found at item 4 here, where there will also be a link to watch the meeting live and after the event on YouTube.