Critics of the latest proposals by East West Rail for the Oxford to Cambridge train line have delivered a signed ‘declaration of opposition’ to the rail minister.
Local Representatives including MPs, parliamentary candidates, district, borough and county councillors, parish councils and environmental and other campaign groups, have signed the document opposing the choice of Route E.
In May, East West Rail Co (EWR Co) announced the finalised route with the implication that houses in the Poets Area would need to be demolished.
For some opponents, the entire project is flawed, while for others, the primary objection is that local residents will lose their homes to make way for six tracks of the route.
For those in favour, including independent rail commentator, Christian Wolmar, it would be a much-needed asset to the network. “We want this sort of project,” he told the Bedford Independent in June.
Organisers of the campaign, BFARe in Bedford and Cambridge Approaches, say the declaration “demonstrates growing and united opposition to the proposals”.
The declaration, which has been signed by hundreds of local residents, was delivered in person to the rail minister Huw Merriman MP.
Mike Barlow, spokesperson for BFARe, said: “Building a destructive greenfield railway, without a corresponding spatial transport plan, at taxpayer expense, without a credible business case must be called out as completely unacceptable for the residents who it purports to serve.
“The EWR proposal includes homebuilding well beyond that specified in the 2040 Local Plan. Housing development in Bedfordshire is already three-and-a-half times higher than the national average.
“Bedford simply does not have the facilities, the schools, the doctor’s surgeries and the supporting greenfield road networks to support the existing level of developments even without those proposed by East West Rail.”
Rather than removing cars from the roads, campaigners say it will force more cars onto the roads to access the new stations.
Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire, Richard Fuller, who has signed the declaration, said at a recent Westminster Hall debate: “The route chosen is so full of twists and turns and ups and downs, it surely competes with what is our country’s bendiest road.”
He told the Bedford Independent: “The BFare Declaration, delivered to the Rail Minister, shows him the widespread and growing opposition to the plans for East West Rail do which there is no economic case for taxpayers and which follows a route that is so environmentally damaging.
“Local councils should now start to voice their opposition formally to these plans by East West Rail.”
Cllr Michael Headley (Liberal Democrats, Putnoe), former Bedford Borough Council transport portfolio holder, said that it wasn’t necessary to oppose the entire project to object to the demolition of homes.
“The current proposal from the government is unacceptable, as it includes the unnecessary demolition of homes in Bedford.
“We have opposed this all along and will continue to do so. We have already called on the council to put in a formal objection to the plans when they are consulted upon.
“You don’t have to oppose the concept of a route through Bedford Midland Station to strongly object to the specific plans for demolitions in Bedford and to demand full electrification from day one, so we will continue to put our weight behind getting the demolitions removed as we have shown repeatedly that they aren’t needed.”
An EWR Co spokesperson said the majority of residents along the route are in favour of the project.
“We’re firm believers in community involvement and we’re always open to hearing the views of our neighbours all along the proposed EWR route, so it’s disappointing that despite our on-going conversations BFARE and CAG they still hold these views.
“We know that over 70% of local residents along the route want EWR and that improving environmentally friendly transport options is a key issue for people in Bedford.
“EWR and the investment it will bring into the two new stations and surrounding areas will help to revive the centre of Bedford, improve job opportunities and access to Bedford Hospital as well as reducing road traffic with its associated air pollution.”