I have been living in Wixams for less than six months. This is the second attempt that my husband and I have made to move to live in Bedford, priced out by the ridiculous rents and mortgages that living in London demands.
The first time was in 2015 when we moved to Kempston. Within a few months I would find my marriage on the rocks and my health battered because of the costs of transportation into the capital making weekly arguments a regular thing.
Wixams is a beautiful new development situated just outside of Bedford near the quaint villages of Elstow and Wilstead.
While it boasts a Co-Op, schools and a community centre, it is a commuter town and as such, it can feel very much like a ghost town.
During the day, if you do not work from home, there is no one at all about and the houses have an almost eerie feel. Nothing moves, not even the swish of a curtain.
My husband works from home so is happily occupied and not someone that needs other people, but even he is telling me regularly that it’s very quiet on the development.
Whilst he drives, I do not, and so I rely very much on the local buses to get me into the town centre and to the shops.
The buses run every hour and that, coming from London, was a massive shock. They also are prone to being cancelled without notice and their lack of regularity simply adds to the feeling of isolation.
It is a regular occurrence to see me and others desperately staring at the computerised timetable at the bus stop, sure that our bus is on its way, only to find that it is not and that we have to wait another hour due to a cancellation.
A regular bus is the heartbeat of a community, it gives those of us who don’t drive or can’t afford to park in town a feeling that we have not been forgotten about, that we are valuable and relevant and that we deserve to be visible.
If there’s one thing that I have learned from living in London, it is that a healthy bus network, with reliable transport, is essential to the well-being of businesses and the local people living in a community.
There is a glimmer of hope for commuters however with the new Wixams station on the horizon, but again this encourages locals to think like strangers taking the train into London and doesn’t encourage the warmth of taking the bus and having a natter.
I asked both Grant Palmer and Stagecoach for a reply to my concerns and to date I have not received a response, however I did receive one from the local authority.
A spokesperson for Bedford Borough Council told me that local bus operators have made a commercial choice to have an hourly timetable and that any services needed to be sustainable. Although I wasn’t told what “sustainable” meant.
In regards to my query that as a disabled person, I felt that an hourly bus service made me feel more isolated, I was told, “There is no requirement within the Local Transport Act 2000 to make special provision for disabled passengers, only that if there are routes in place, they need to be compliant with the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility Regulations.”
However, more promisingly I was also told, “With the help of (pending) additional funding through S106 agreements, Bedford Borough Council will seek to engage with neighbouring authorities and local bus operators with a view to enhancing the public transport service for Wixams.”
My last thought of the day is why are developers building these new villages with no infrastructure and without thinking of how this might be affecting the mental health of those of us living in these pretty but isolated new build homes.
Will I stay in Bedford? Well at age 50 I have no choice but to do so but if I had the means I suspect I’d return home to London.