In little more than 2 weeks, over 1,000 Bedford residents have signed a petition requesting Bedford Borough Council reviews their decision to support route E.
The most expensive of five routes that runs through Brickhill and North Bedfordshire villages. The entire EWR consultation only had 7,204 responses across the wider Oxford to Cambridge region.
As awareness grows, parish councils to the north of Bedford are rallying to request transparency on what happened.
None of them oppose East West Rail (EWR) coming to Bedford but want explanations and supporting data on why it was moved to the most expensive route for taxpayers, that gives up the opportunity to regenerate brownfield sites in Bedford South and cuts through the hills of Brickhill and North Bedfordshire villages.
The route is less direct and given it will be used for diesel freight trains will significantly increase the carbon footprint.
One Parish is an exception and that is Brickhill. Deputy Mayor Charles Royden (Lib Dem) has supported the Mayor Dave Hodgson (Lib Dem) in lobbying to move the line away from the south of Bedford so that it cuts through Brickhill and the Woodlands Park area.
The Bedford Borough Council’s (BBC) independent consultant’s recommendation was for a line to the south that uses legacy varsity line infrastructure.
The petition highlights that no explanation has been provided for why this option was not disclosed, or put forward by BBC to EWR.
During a Brickhill Parish zoom call on 4 February, local residents communicated their shock at their council’s decision to lobby for route E.
Between 2017-2021 EWR only appeared as an agenda item at two council meetings (agenda items 14 and 11) after discussions on items such Christmas lights and Easter activities.
At the second in February 2019, Cllr Royden proposed that Brickhill writes to EWR to express support for route E.
The minutes do not mention that the proposed corridor for route E includes Brickhill. There has still not been any dedicated discussion with Brickhill residents which is surprising given it is the largest infrastructure project in the history of Brickhill Parish.
No reasons are provided in the minutes for why Cllr Royden was actively lobbying for the route and Brickhill Council has failed to respond to numerous requests for information.
It was agreed on 4 February that residents would be given an extraordinary meeting on EWR but they delayed setting the date until 19 February which means it can’t legally be held until today (25 February).
With the Bedford Borough Council meeting on EWR being held on 24 February, Brickhill residents don’t get to discuss their views with borough councillors first.
Time for the government to look at the failure in adequacy of the EWR consultation in selecting route E.
Note that the author supports the EWR line coming to Bedford but recognises concerns in how the route was selected.
Name and address withheld
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