Meeting with the Poets Steering Group

April 19, 2021 3:38 PM
Originally published by Dave Hodgson - Mayor of Bedford Borough

Mayor Dave HodgsonYesterday evening Councillor Headley and I met residents from the Poets area, some of whose homes will be severely affected by the East West Rail Company's proposals. I confirmed that we would continue to argue for a four track railway north of Bedford station that wouldn't need any homes demolished here. This has always been our view.

The Council became aware that the East West Rail Company were looking at a six track option in the Summer of 2019, after the first consultation ended. We did not think six tracks were necessary and made that point to them, We didn't see a diagram and we understood this just to be one of many options they were looking at and this turned out to be the case, as in the 2020 East West Rail Company's announcement it was not included.

The East West Rail Company confirm this, saying "This greater detail has emerged since the decision to select Route Option E as the preferred route option in 2020 - at that time, it was not known that EWR services would require tracks north of Bromham Road."

If this rumour had been leaked in 2019 it would have been highly irresponsible and damaging to residents in the area. Particularly given that 5 months later it wasn't in the East West Rail Company's plans that the government announced. There would have been huge uncertainty about who might be impacted and it would have blighted the whole community. You can't play games with such important news. When they make a proposal the East West Rail Company have to inform people through a proper process with all the relevant details and support available.

In the run up to this current consultation, the East West Rail Company again raised the issue of 6 tracks and that this was likely to be an option. We didn't have access to any East West Rail Company plans of the precise properties this would impact and indeed didn't see the plans until after residents received them.

I can appreciate the distress this proposal has brought, particularly for those with homes on the route. The threat to homes and businesses along the routes is something I take very seriously.

In the Council's previous responses to the East West Rail Company we based our views on a four-track line which would not have put these homes at risk.

We will make the case for improving the existing four track railway north out of Bedford rather than adding the additional tracks during this consultation. We have already asked for technical work to be done on a four track railway, as well as to challenge EWRCo on the amount of land they indicate they require.

I would urge you to formally respond to the East West Rail Company's consultation at https://eastwestrail.co.uk/consultation to give your views on a four track railway verses a six track railway and indeed other views on the route alignment.