East West Rail communication branded ‘abysmal’ and ‘disgraceful’ by Bedford councillors

Cllr Colleen Atkins represents residents in the Poets area of Bedford
Cllr Colleen Atkins represents residents in the Poets area of Bedford

The way East West Rail Company has communicated and delayed decisions is “abysmal” and “disgraceful” according to Bedford Borough councillors

At last week’s Executive Meeting (Wednesday 8 June) councillor Michael Headley (LibDems, Putnoe Ward), the portfolio holder for rail, said the council’s revised rail strategy makes two “strong” points about East West Rail.

“Firstly we did not accept the six-track proposals by East West Rail Company and we never have.

“Secondly that it is totally unacceptable in the way impacted residents have been treated.

“Particularly the continued delays of the next stage’s announcement, this is just not good enough,” he said.

Councillor Louise Jackson (Labour, Harpur Ward) said it is right for the revised strategy to acknowledge the unacceptable delays that residents have endured.

“People living in the area have been left in limbo, and East West Rail’s engagement is being quite disgraceful.

“Their one-to-one meetings and engagement events just feel like an opportunity, I think, to plug the same old lines, they’ve not moved on.

“They have had quite long enough to consider the consultation responses, and they need to get on and make an announcement,” she said.

Cllr Louise Jackson

Fellow ward councillor Colleen Atkins (Labour) said: “Quite understandably people are really, really worried, they’re really upset.

“It’s affecting mental health, it’s affecting every part of everyday life.

“East West Rail have really, really, not done it right with its communication.

“They’ve not done it right with the fact that they’ve delayed the result of the consultation over and over again.

“It was meant to be in March then it was taken to, I think, June, then it was September and then October.

“Now we hear it’s the end of the year, and that is just no way to be treating people and to be expecting people not to be feeling as they do.

“It’s quite unacceptable what East West Rail have done,  the way they have communicated is abysmal.

“The way that we’ve had to fight and fight and fight to get the one-to-one meetings.

“We have to fight to get the drop-in meeting, and even then the communication with that was really appalling,” she said.

Bedford Mayor, Dave Hodgson, said he mentions the “unfair” delays at every opportunity.

“I will continue to make that point to the Department for Transport and to the East West Rail Company that they need to pull their finger out and actually make a decision.

“This constant delay and moving back deadlines,  I cannot imagine what it’s doing to the people that live in the areas affected,” he said.

East West Rail Company was approached for a comment on Thursday (9 June) but had not responded by the time of publication Monday (13 June).

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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