Council will host ‘virtual’ meetings to hear views on East West Rail

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Bedford Station Sign

Bedford Borough Council has said it will hold two virtual meetings to hear views from residents and businesses about East West Rail’s (EWR) consultation so they can form their response.

EWR is currently consulting on a number of factors connected to a new Oxford to Cambridge line which is due to be built north of Bedford.

This includess route alignment into, through, and out of Bedford Borough, as well as stations and level crossings.

The council are holding two meetings so residents can give their views, which the council will use to create their official response to the consultation.

These meetings will take place on:

  • Wednesday 12 May from 12 pm-2 pm
  • Thursday 13 May from 6:30 pm-8:30 pm

Campaigners who would be affected by the new route, including those in the Poets Area whose homes are under threat of demolition have welcomed news of the meetings but say more needs to be done.

BFARe logo
BFARe is a campaign group that believes East West Rail’s 2019 public consultation was flawed and the resulting preferred route is not the best East-West/Oxford to Cambridge rail route for Bedford.

“I welcome that the Mayor is making at least a token effort following our demands for public meetings”, said Mike Barlow of BFARe.

“[However] it is a shame that he and Cllr Headley would rather use the unfortunate circumstances that necessitate virtual meetings to go on rather than entering into genuine dialogue to actually hear from residents.”

A spokesperson from the Protect Poets steering group added that more transparency is needed, “talks with our elected representatives equally need to be fully disclosed so we all know what has been discussed and what is happening.”

Residents will be able to ask questions

During the meeting, there will be a presentation and a question and answer session with Mayor Dave Hodgson, Councillor Michael Headley, and the chief officer for planning and infrastructure development at the Council.

You can send in a question via email to EWRpublicmeetings@bedford.gov.uk and it must be received by 8 am, Friday 7 May for it to be considered.

“Due to the level of interest anticipated, it is unlikely that everyone that submits a question will be able to take part,” added a council spokesperson.

Mr Barlow said he was frustrated with this process, “I suspect they will be selective of the questions they choose to answer and well-rehearsed in how they answer them.”

But the council say that anyone who doesn’t get their question answered in the meeting will receive a written response.

People watching live on YouTube will also be able to submit comments to the same email address or via the council’s dedicated online form here.

However, the council warned these meetings are not an opportunity for people to make their individual responses to the consultation.

“These public meetings are not a replacement for the consultation being run by the East-West Rail Company or a way to have your say in the consultation itself,” said the spokesperson.

“[They are] a listening exercise for the Council as we put our consultation response together.”

Residents are encouraged to attend ERW’s own consultation meetings and respond to their consultation individually, both of which you can find at www.eastwestrail.co.uk

Calls for further discussion

Even with these meetings, campaigners say more needs to be done and continue to call for more discussions about the EWR plans with Bedford’s Mayor.

BFARe represents residents from both Bedford town and the rural areas, who they say “don’t feel adequately represented by their councillors”.

They have criticised Bedford Borough Council for not allowing meetings with Parish Council to be made public, which they say would have allowed them to engage directly with the public.

“We have asked for a meeting twice to discuss our concerns with this consultation, but the Mayor is yet to respond,” added Mr Barlow.

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