Letters: EWR will bring construction blight, remove hospital parking, and unbridled greenfield homebuilding

BFARe logo
BFARe is a campaign group that believes East West Rail’s 2019 public consultation was flawed and the resulting preferred route is not the best East-West/Oxford to Cambridge rail route for Bedford.

Dear editor,

The diesel East West Railway is an inefficient and antiquated Victorian transport solution without merit for modern ecological inter-city travel.

The Victorians themselves chose a straight flat route between Oxford & Cambridge, not the hilly, bendy and costly Route E as confirmed in the recent East West Rail Route Update Announcement.

Building a destructive greenfield railway in this day, without a corresponding spatial transport plan, using taxpayer money, and without proper commercial justification must be called out as unacceptable for the Bedford residents whom it is due to serve.

The EWR line will not even provide a sensible solution for rail freight transport.

The EWR route does not include a spatial transport strategy for how people will access the EWR stations. So further cars, buses and commuters will be added to the existing road network and add to Bedford gridlock thanks to EWR.

So what is it for? At the moment, 2090 commuters a day will use EWR and this is EWR’s own estimate according to their Route Update Announcement technical report.

Sources: https://eastwestrail.co.uk/routeupdate and https://eastwestrail-production.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.co…

It’s time for the EWR and the DfT to think again and come up with something better for Bedford.

Below we justify our comments using East West Rail’s own route update announcement documentation.

Bedford Construction Blight to Bedford Midland

Bedford is the only town on the East West Rail line that will see major construction upend an existing historic town centre. Bedford already suffers constricted traffic flows which results in high pollution levels from the stationery and slow-moving traffic. The route through Bedford will destroy homes and businesses, disrupt residents’ quality of life, and have a major impact on the town’s environmental health.

EWR proposed construction work between Bromham Road and Ampthill Road Image: BFARe
EWR proposed construction work between Bromham Road and Ampthill Road Image: BFARe

East West Rail construction works will impact everyone who travels by car, bus, van, lorry, motorbike, cycle, scooter and on foot in BEDFORD

Many of us can recall the disruption when Network Rail closed Bromham Road bridge in JUNE 2019, to demolish & construct a bridge at a raised height to accommodate electrification equipment, all part of the £1.5billion Midland Main Line Upgrade. It was re-opened in June 2020.

Here’s some news articles to refresh your memory –





Let’s dive into what East West Rail is proposing for our town in their Route Update Announcement on 26 May 2023.

Bromham Road Bridge

Rebuild Bromham Road Bridge to provide 3rd arch on the East side for tracks 5 & 6. Re-profile Bromham Road towards the Ashburnham Road mini-roundabouts.

Ford End Road Bridge

Raise Ford End Bridge to bring into use new arch for alignment with rebuilt Midland Station and permit future EWR electrification

Cauldwell Street Bridge

Raise Cauldwell Street Bridge to allow EWR service beneath with height to spare for future electrification

Ampthill Road Bridge

Realign the Marston Vale Line to pass through the current car park* and 2 of the 3 existing arches of Ampthill Road Bridge – which will require raising to permit future electrification.

We can only speculate on how/when the works will be carried out, one thing we do know is that it will be hugely disruptive for residents, people who work in the town centre, commuters to Bedford Station and visitors to the town. We can also expect that this will span many months/years.

  • Will hospital workers, patients and visitors alike still have access to parking facilities?
  • What will be the impact on ensuring a swift response for emergency workers, Fire, Police, and Ambulance?
  • Overnight closures as MML will still need to provide a service?
  • Will bridge improvements be carried out consecutively or simultaneously?
  • Road closures/diversions to consider for anyone who uses local roads – How long will this huge amount of disruption go on for?

EWR Construction Blight North of Bromham Road

East West Rail has proposed a route that will require significant construction and massive civil engineering works from Bromham Road Bridge through the northeast area of Bedford.

EWR proposed construction work north of Bromham Road Image: BFARe
EWR proposed construction work north of Bromham Road Image: BFARe

It is impossible to foresee how the EWR lines could be constructed without gravely affecting the local Bedford road network and the quality of life across the area, for years.

Bromham Bridge Reconstruction and Loss of Homes

In their Route Update Announcement, EWR confirmed their intention to proceed north from the new Bedford Station using two new tracks.

This requires the rebuild of Bromham Road Bridge and will cause significant property loss in Spencer, Milton and Sidney Roads, Milton Row and Chesterton Mews.

23 homes are identified for demolition plus 5 adjoining properties at similar risk and 11 properties are currently identified to lose part of their current parking or garden areas.

These properties are shaded red, orange and blue on the attached map. Since the working area will be at a premium alongside the active Midland Main Line (MML) homeowners losing part of their gardens will be faced with heavy construction work going on outside their windows.

EWR Omitted the Construction Details from Consultations

The new section from the turnout at A and beyond to Clapham Green was never described in any detail during the 2019 or 2021 non-statutory consultations, despite it involving critical issues of practicality and EWR still studiously avoids engagement with the stock answer that the design is yet to be worked out and will be revealed at the Statutory Consultation intended to take place in 2024.

Following the project northwards from the Poets area of Bedford, land would be taken from the Alexander Sports Centre and changes may be required to the major National Power distribution facility alongside the MML at Fairhill.

Major Construction Works at Clapham Roundabout

The triangle bounded by the MML, Great Ouse Way (GOW), Brewpoint and Aldi forms the northern access to the work required in the Poets and Bromham Bridge areas.

It also has to support the creation of an extra rail bridge beneath the GOW at a higher rail running level than the adjacent MVL (remember the EWR tracks have to rise at a maximum gradient in order to be high enough to successfully clear the Paula Radcliffe Way (PRW).

The GOW will need to be raised from its current profile over the MML to pass over the new EWR bridge and will need to be diverted in a congested area to allow this work to be achieved.

Crossing the River Ouse Flood Plain

The Ouse floodplain area around Paula Radcliffe Way will be traversed fully by a viaduct. The support pillars for the viaduct are likely to be constructed in situ but the overhead beams and decking surface will be cast elsewhere and delivered to site by roads, which are already heavily congested.

After re-crossing the river the viaduct will pass about 13.5m above Clapham Road (this is about the height of the tall street lamps there).

Climbing the Clapham Escarpment

East of Clapham Road the viaduct would lead to a short embankment. But as the ground rises, the track would enter a cutting for 2.5km which reaches up to 14m deep and 125m surface width to be able to cross the Clapham escarpment at maximum gradients.

The enormous quantities of cut material can be used in part to fill embankments further east but there is limited space to store it until it can be used and no existing rail service to transport it.

The majority of basic cut and fill will therefore have to be carried away by a huge fleet of trucks, again impacting the road network, especially on roads connecting at the Sainsbury’s and Manton Lane roundabouts.

Logistics Park in Clapham

It is quite likely much of the land between Clapham Road and Carriage Drive will be turned over to a major logistic support park to serve the north of Bedford construction area.

BFARe has highlighted these issues to EWR since the fateful decision was made to pursue route option E. The decision was not based on adequate consideration of the consequences and we have campaigned for a reassessment.

If you have concerns that the EWR proposals are flawed then please consider supporting the Declaration which can be accessed at: https://bfare.org.uk/declaration-of-opposition-to-the-east-west-rail-route-proposal/

Bedford Hospital Car Parking and St John’s Station

The current EWR proposal is to remove a large area of onsite hospital parking. This is to accommodate a relocated St John’s station.

The EWR claim that a new St John’s station at Bedford Hospital will “improve” public transport for hospital employees and patients is refuted entirely.

There is no spatial transport strategy for how commuters access EWR stations. And the first and last-mile travel time penalty is significant enough that most people will continue to drive to the hospital for work or treatments.

Proposed option 1 relocation of MVL and St Johns station Image: BFARe
Proposed option 1 relocation of MVL and St Johns station Image: BFARe

The Devil is in the Detail

East West Rail Co intends to relocate St John’s station from its current location. They outlined 2 options at the 20-21 nonstatutory consultation and continue to prefer Option 1.

By doing so, the extensive hospital overflow car parking to the east of Britannia Road would be seriously impacted.

At the East West Rail public event at Manton Heights in Bedford on Tuesday 13th June, where EWR representatives were asked where hospital staff, visitors and patients are to park after losing some car parking facilities on-site, they responded that people will walk, cycle or use the train service.

This is gravely concerning for all that depend on the car parking facilities on-site.

It is anticipated that there will be further engagement by EWR with the general public in the late Autumn. Questions can be put to them at any time using the process described on their website at: https://eastwestrail.co.uk/get-in-touch

We are unaware if Bedford Hospital has been informed of East West Rail Co’s intention, other than as indicated in the Route Update Announcement (RUA) documentation or whether they support or object to this proposal.

Staff at Bedford Hospital appear largely unaware that the availability of parking facilities will be vastly reduced by the EWR project.

Bedford Borough Homebuilding

Housing development in Bedford Borough is already 2.5 times higher than the rest of the country.

Housing growth related to east west rail. Image: BFARe
Housing growth related to East West Rail. Image: BFARe

Unbridled Bedford Borough housing development is being used to justify the very high £5B+ taxpayer cost of East West Rail.

We use the word “cost” to mean:

  1. The environmental cost in terms of pollution, construction blight and biodiversity loss
  2. The very high economic cost to the taxpayer.

Bedford Borough simply does not have the facilities, the schools, the doctor’s surgeries and the supporting greenfield road networks to support the level of proposed associated East West Rail housing development.

Please Sign the Declaration of Opposition to East West Rail

Declaration of Opposition to East West Rail. image: BFARe
Declaration of Opposition to East West Rail. image: BFARe

How to Sign the Declaration. Please confirm your signature by sending us an e-mail to: declaration@bfare.org.uk with your first name, last name and the first part of your postcode. If you are a councillor, please identify any parish, town or ward for which you were elected.

We will not be storing your e-mail address and will simply add your name to the list of signatories and then delete your e-mail.

The declaration will send a message to the Department for Transport and East West Rail to do better; to think again.

Thank you,

Mike Barlow
Chair, BFARe.

Research compiled by: Rachel Duke, Nikki Cartlidge, Steve Arnold, Jet Dhaliwal, Peter Norris, Chris White and Paul Jenkins.

Letters published are the views of the author,
not the Bedford Independent.

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