Campaigners tell councillors supporting new rail route is “nuts”

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BFARe protesters outside St Cuthbert's Hall EWR meeting with Mohammed Yasin MP 15 October
BFARe protesters outside a meeting at St Cuthbert's Hall.

A campaigner has claimed that despite council claims to the contrary, East West Rail will use diesel-powered trains when the line first opens.

Mike Barlow, from BFARe, told the full council on Wednesday (February 23) that he’s starting “to feel a bit stupid”.

“I must be, I’ve seen lots and lots of media coverage of all the great green things the mayor and his supporters are doing, but I can’t seem to reconcile that with the support for Route E and the massive incremental damage it would cause environmentally,” he said.

“Diesel trains and the increase in congestion will cause a further decline in Bedford’s already terrible air quality levels and bring with it the associated health issues.

“More mature trees will be destroyed than the saplings that will survive the mayor’s 10,000 tree planting extravaganza, and we know the council only scored two out of five for its climate plan.

“By continuing to support Route E this regime is advocating the protection of landfill sites and the new build solar farms over our green countryside, that’s nuts.

“Councillor Headley said some people will be negatively affected wherever the railway goes, like we should just shut up and go away. Everybody knows some people will be negatively affected, but Route E is simply longer, it carves up more countryside, it makes no sense,” he said.

Mike Barlow of bFARE

Cllr Michael Headley (LibDems, Putnoe Ward), the council’s representative on the East West Rail Consortium (Western Section) Joint Delivery Board, said: “You frequently make the point about diesel trains when you know full well the East West Rail Company has been very clear on this point, but you choose to misrepresent them at every opportunity.

“I will quote from the East West Rail Company documents, ‘East West Rail Company is aiming to deliver a zero carbon railway and will be considering conventional and emerging solutions for powering trains while waiting for the service to be fully operational, the use of diesel-powered trains is not a project objective.

“It is very clear, the use of diesel-powered trains is not a project objective,” he said.

“You talked about sustainability, clearly it’s very important, I believe that we keep cars and lorries off the road and rail is a good way of doing that. You seem to imply that rail is a less green option than more cars on the road.

“Most people recognise rail as the more sustainable option.”

Mr Barlow said: “Regardless of what the objective in terms of traction power is, East West Rail have said that it will be diesel from the outset.

“You can shake your head as much as you like, but Will Gallagher said it again in the meeting on October 19, and there’s video of it, so go back and check,”

by John Guinn Local Democracy Reporter

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