Recent coverage has discussed the East West Rail (EWR) route planned through Bedford and out to the north east towards Tempsford.
This is the route long supported by the Mayor and his colleagues on the basis of economic gain they argue will come to Bedford as a result.
The campaign group fighting this route is in favour of the EWR project but believe the route chosen is the wrong one for Bedford.
The route will cause immense environmental damage, will bring a major freight line directly through town, will add significantly to traffic congestion and pollution in town and have a major impact on residents in Brickhill, Clapham and villages around its path.
Building work will create years of disruption especially around the A6 ”Sainsbury” roundabout, affecting many people commuting or dropping off kids at school.
All this when an alternative southern route is possible alongside the A421, which is much less environmentally damaging, flatter, shorter and serves an existing development corridor.
Some argue this will ‘bypass’ Bedford leaving the town bereft of economic benefit. Apart from the view that a new rail line through Bedford will not magically resurrect the town, Bedford Borough’s own figures show that the theoretical benefit of the chosen route above a southern alternative is only c£6m pa, a tiny figure in relation to the size of our local economy.
The figures also show this benefit only accrues to the town area, with a large element made up of passengers changing trains who would be unlikely to be spending money in Bedford.
Another argument is that the southern route will ‘kill off’ Wixams station. The Borough Council has finally agreed a design and funding for this long-promised development.
An EWR southern parkway station can be separate from this, indeed Cllr Headley recently promised to now raise this option with EWR.
Promoting a southern parkway station (to better serve commuters) undermines the argument for economic benefits only coming from running EWR through the centre of town.
In truth the economic benefit to Bedford is very likely to come from people moving here to commute along the Ox-Cam arc. This benefit can best be served by a parkway station.
These same people, living nearby, would just as readily support local businesses, generating sustainable benefits for the area.
However there is a compromise that is a win-win for residents, our environment and the Mayor.
EWR could serve a redeveloped Midland station with an In-Out service, like the Thameslink one already operating, using the existing Bletchley line and a new triangle near the A421.
This could be close to (but not affect) a Wixams station, allows freight trains to avoid the centre of town overnight, supports a southern EWR parkway station and enables the Mayor to keep the projected economic benefits. EWRCo when recently challenged about this option said they were ‘not persuaded.’
The Borough Council has lobbied very effectively for EWRCo to choose the northern route, I would call on them to be open-minded, join us and support a better solution for the whole of Bedford Borough and our environment. It’s not too late.
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