Bedford MPs grill transport minister over East West Rail route

Mohammad Yasin, MP for Bedford & Kempston (left) and NE Beds MP, Richard Fuller (right)

Two of Bedford’s MPs grilled the transport minister in Parliament today over the East West Rail (EWR) route.

Both Richard Fuller, Conservative MP for NE Beds and Bedford and Kempston, MP, Mohammad Yasin (Labour) questioned the minister for transport, Chris Heaton-Harris, over constituents’ concerns around the infrastructure project to create a rail link between Oxford and Cambridge.

Mr Fuller’s question on the parliamentary order paper was, ‘What recent assessment has [the rail minister] made of the adequacy of the 2019 East West Rail route consultation’.

However, the question he posed to the minister centred on environmental concerns.

“Many of my constituents are all appalled at the environmental damage that EWR will do across Bedfordshire and baffled why this 21st-century project will use a 19th-century fuel.

“So, will my Right Honourable Friend look again at the environmental considerations that East West Rail has undertaken and bring them up to scratch?”

Mr Heaton Harris congratulated Mr Fuller on the “pragmatic and dedicated campaign he is running on behalf of his constituents”.

“I know my Honourable Friend has encouraged his constituents to have their say in the consultation and I thank him for that too,” he said.

“We are committed to the de-carbonisation of our railways and EWR will continue to assess the potential environmental effects as part of the route alignment development work.

“An environmental impact assessment will be undertaken and an environmental statement submitted when the development consent order application is made.”

Mr Yasin, whose constituency includes the area around Bedford Midland Station in which a number of houses are destined for demolition, raised a question about the transparency of the initial consultation.

“The 2019 EWR consultation and 2020 route announcement made no mention that six tracks would be needed at Bedford Midland Station or consequently the demolition in Poets Area of my constituents,” he said.

“So, I urge the Minister to consider the many representations on this matter from members of the public, rail groups, local councillors and Bedford Borough’s SLC rail report showing a credible four-track option which would avoid the loss of homes.”

In response, the Minister said: “I can assure the Honourable Gentleman that this is a non-statutory consultation, a consultation where we really do want to listen to the views of people affected by the route and I take into consideration his views here today.”

Speaking after today’s parliamentary session, Mr Yasin told the Bedford Independent, “I am pleased that the rail minister has agreed to take account of my question in parliament today when considering the EWR consultation, though his mention of it being a non-statutory consultation slightly undermined that commitment.

“Statutory or non-statutory, it’s vital he takes the concerns of the people of Bedford seriously on an issue as important as whether or not people’s homes are going to be demolished.”

Richard Fuller MP has secured an Adjournment Debate on Monday 28 June to discuss East West Rail’s Route E selection process.

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