Beth West will leave East West Rail when interim CEO contract ends

Beth West
Beth West, CEO at East West Rail Company

After two years in what was an interim CEO post, Beth West says she’ll be leaving East West Rail Co (EWRCo) in May.

The Bedford Independent reported in December that the Department for Transport (DfT) would begin looking for a new CEO after it was announced that Ms West’s contract was due to end.

Read: EWR looking for new CEO as Beth West nears end of interim role

At the time Ms West did not comment as to whether she would seek permanent employment. Now, she has confirmed she’ll be leaving when the contract ends in May but will remain available to support the new CEO until July.

In a statement to the media, a spokesperson for EWR said with Beth West at the helm, the team has accomplished a huge amount, not least:

  • Securing Central Government support for the continued development of EWR as a driver of UK economic growth
  • Defining the Preferred Route for EWR, and delivering a Route Update Announcement in May 2023
  • Delivering critical design development, in preparation for the first stage of Statutory Consultation in Summer 2024
  • Establishing Local Opportunity Plans with £15m of funding to support wider economic growth around new EWR stations
  • Unlocking £240m funding to accelerate delivery of the Marston Vale Line upgrades
  • Completing track infrastructure for the route between Oxford and Bletchley, on time and below budget, which will enable services to begin, as planned, from 2025
  • Reducing the cost of EWR Co day-to-day operations by around 30%
  • Building increased pan-regional political and public support, with nearly three-quarters of local residents now saying they support the transport link.

Speaking of her departure, Ms West added, “When I started at EWR, it wasn’t even clear if [the] Government would back the project.

“We now have clear Government support, a real focus on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and who we’re building it for.

“As the company moves into a new phase, I’ve reflected that now is the time for me to move on, with EWR Co ready for the future whilst I’m ready for a new challenge.”

Both Neil Sachdev, Chair of EWR Co, and Huw Merriman, Rail Minister have praised Beth’s leadership.

“Beth’s tenure at EWR Co has been a defining time for the company. I’m sorry to see her go, and I want to thank Beth for the exceptional work that she has led over the past two years with us. I wish her the very best for the future,” said Mr Sachdev.

Meanwhile, Mr Merriman said: “Beth has been instrumental in bringing fresh perspective to East West Rail – a major project that will transform rail journeys for millions of people between Oxford and Cambridge.”

Local reaction

We asked Bedford Borough Mayor, Tom Wootton (Conservative), whose election manifesto was based on getting EWR to rethink their chosen ‘northern’ Route E decline to comment on the news.

However, Labour MP for Bedford and Kempston did highlight the importance of EWR continuing to listen to the concerns of Bedfordians, and that leadership changes are not helpful.

“I always found my meetings with Beth West to be constructive and respectful and I wish her well in whatever she chooses to do next,” said Mohammad Yasin.

“However, my constituents are uniquely impacted by the East-West Rail project and have spent years in agonising limbo, living in blighted homes, not knowing what the future holds for them.

“It’s not helpful when leadership teams change again and again as we have seen with Government Rail Ministers and at EWR. What my constituents need is consistency, strong leadership and clear communications from East West Rail.”

Campaign group BFARe also added concerns over the change but remained hopeful a new CEO will “foster better communication with the residents of Bedford”.

A spokesperson told the Bedford Independent, “Beth West filled the position at EWR Co CEO just two years ago, on an interim basis, her previous roles included Commercial Director at HS2 Ltd, a company responsible for delivering the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project.

“As a campaign group against the Northern route together with Protect Poets we have tried to work with Beth West the best we could. We wish her all the best in her new role.

“While her departure marks a transition for the organization, it’s hoped that the incoming leadership will address community concerns and foster better communication with the residents of Bedford, which she failed to do.

“The recent venue change for the public event next month is attributed to BFARe pointing out that the venue selected was wholly unsuitable.

“The challenges surrounding venue selection for public events and the need for better engagement with local residents highlight the complexities and community relations involved in this project.”

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