Letters: Consulted – are you kidding me?

1953
East West Rail virtual consultation room
EWR's virtual consultation room

Dear editor,

As a resident of the rural part of Bedford Borough, I can genuinely say I have never felt so disappointed and upset at our supposed elected representatives and the lack of transparency from them and East West Rail (EWR) by association.

An Oxford – Cambridge rail link makes sense to many for both freight and passenger services. Although, the latter will undoubtedly be far less in demand by 2030 with the fall out from Covid-19 and the move to remote working by possibly millions of people.

Any plans should make allowances for this. Having been vaguely aware of a consultation process in 2019, I was unable to attend the single consultation session in an obscure Community Hall on the south side of Bedford.

There was no likelihood of a northern route being chosen at the time due to the excessive costs and environmental impacts. Enter (stage left) Bedford Borough Council and Mayor Dave Hodgson.

Without any consultation with Bedford Borough residents, the Mayor decides to spend £75k of Council Taxpayers money on an engineering report that will give him the answer he wants (after two attempts) proving that Route E is actually affordable (to hell with the environmental impact).

Why would he do this? A Mayor with a history of bad decisions and wasting taxpayers money. Misguided beliefs and incompetence.

Both Bedford Borough Council (BBC) and EWR have pointed at the 7000 respondents to the 2019 consultation. This is disingenuous as half of these were from one environmental group concerned with a particular issue further along the route.

Under Freedom of Information (FOI) I have requested postcodes to evidence the number of actual Bedford postcodes that responded. This was on 1 Feb and I am still waiting.

The remaining 3,500 spread between Bedford & Cambridge isn’t exactly a large number when you consider the population impacted.

“The financial benefits will be worth it” – Really? Prove it to me.

Henry Vann – Bedford Borough Councillor (Lib Dem) has told me that the benefits of a route through Bedford are self-evident.

However, no one has been able to provide any evidence of these supposed benefits. The only figure the Mayor has mentioned is £6m.

This is an incredibly small number for a borough of 170,000 residents.

It has recently come to light that Bedford Borough Council has offered to pay for the Midland Road Station rebuild and construction of a multi-storey car park.

I’m guessing there goes our £6m windfall (if indeed it ever was real). I understand that this is partly how the costs of Route E dropped like a stone post consultation.

East West Rail Route E
Route E has been selected as the ‘preferred route for the Oxford to Cambridge line through Bedford Borough.

Our environment – do they really not care?

All Route E options will leave a scar on the landscape, unlike anything the town has ever witnessed. I’m afraid that most residents will live in blissful ignorance until the bulldozers move in.

The area to the north of Bedford through which Route E would run is some of the most picturesque, unspoilt countrywide our county has.

We should be protecting it with all our might to pass it on to future generations intact.

The south side of Bedford already has the A421 transport corridor. It is flatter, a shorter route, no doubt providing quicker journey times.

EWR have no local knowledge

One comment in the Technical report published recently suggested that Ford End Road bridge may not be viable to be rebuilt and that alternative routes may have to be found for traffic?

Anyone from Bedford would know that what they have just said is the most ridiculous suggestion. It would cause traffic carnage forever.

However, Councillor Headley of BBC confirmed that no traffic survey/impact study has been carried out of either short term disruption from construction OR longer term if it does indeed attract more passengers.

All of these “new” passengers who drive into the town centre could of course circumvent the town centre and jump on a train from an edge of town location with ample space for parking.

(Did I mention parking is a nightmare at Bedford Station? After 7.15 am there are zero parking spaces available).

Summary

Your emerging preference routes will all cause carnage to our wonderful countryside. There are no benefits that anyone can evidence that can justify these actions.

You are asking me to choose between hanging or firing squad. I choose neither. I will continue to fight.

Stuart Bolton
Address supplied

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