Councillors and campaigners have slammed the East Midlands Railway (EMR) consultation as a ‘complete disgrace’, saying it is confirmation of the government’s downgrade of Bedford’s trains from December 2020.
Claims of a ‘more frequent service’ were branded complete nonsense by Henry Vann, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Bedford and Kempston, as slower trains – all stopping at Luton and Luton Airport – are proposed in the return of EMR services, completing what he describes as, “…the Conservative’s betrayal of Bedford’s already hard-pressed rail users.
“The East Midlands Railway consultation is out and it confirms Bedford commuters’ and leisure travellers’ worst fears,” said Henry, a former commuter.
“It features the total removal of Bedford form the Intercity map, no direct links north beyond Kettering and Corby – due to Conservative imposed cuts to direct north bound trains – and slower commuter-style trains to London in place of today’s intercity services, going from as fast as 35 minutes to 41 minutes.”
A statement from East Midlands Rail outlined the following benefits to Bedford’s commuters in their proposals:
– Return of EMR peak time services to/from London to Bedford and Luton
– Removal of the peak time bus between Bedford and Wellingborough
– More regular service compared to prior to May 2018
– Significant increase (up to 40% per train) in seating capacity compared to pre May 2018
– Trains will be completely refurbished in the following months and will offer plug sockets throughout, better WiFi, tables and armrest for all seats and real time passenger information
Julian Edwards, managing director, East Midlands Railway, said: “Our proposals for the December 2020 timetable would deliver a step change in capacity, improve journey times and introduce a simpler and more consistent timetable.
“We know how important a reliable and punctual railway is for the towns and cities we serve. December 2020 is a vitally important part of our promise to deliver more seats, more services and better journeys for our customers and we look forward to your feedback.”
However, Mr Vann condemned the consultation as ‘farcical’, saying, “The Conservatives have let down Bedford and Kempston and residents across Bedford Borough yet again; they simply can’t be trusted on the railways.”
“We have had all the pain for electrification with the closure of Bromham Road Bridge, and cancelled trains, but none of the gain. The Government must now intervene and reverse its decision imposed in this broken franchise. They are directly responsible for this disaster.
“The so-called ‘return of East Midlands services’ is profoundly misleading. I urge people to sign mine and Daniel Norton’s petition for the full restoration of our northern connection, and for faster trains into London.”
“In a further slap in the face, in their consultation document, Network Rail call The Midland Main Line ‘one of the UK’s most important railways’ but they continue to let us down around Bromham Road Bridge and numerous other delayed or cancelled works.”
Local councillor and rail campaigner, Ben Foley said, “The proposals are deeply frustrating, and even slightly worse than we had been expecting.
“We already knew that the Conservative government planned to ignore the wishes of the hundreds of people who attended the consultation meeting on 25 Sept 2017, but having this confirmation in the form of a ‘consultation’ which tries to hide the truth is an insult.
“I was the first to spot in July 2017 that there were these plans to take away all our Intercity services, and was very proud to have led the campaign.
“I spent a lot of time and effort in the summer and autumn of 2017 warning people that this was happening, and it is so very frustrating that the ears of the Conservative ministers were closed.”
Conservative parliamentary candidate, Ryan Henson, laid the blame with Bedford’s Labour MP and Liberal Democrat council, saying, “As a local commuter I know just how vital our rail links are for our community here in Bedford.
“Like many other residents, I have felt frustrated and disappointed to see our Labour MP and Liberal Democrat Council fail to fight hard enough to prevent our fast service to London from being out of action for such a long time.
“I am determined to get commuters a better deal from our train companies.”
To read the proposals and respond to the consultation, visit: www.eastmidlandsrailway.co.uk/december2020