“Terrifying” railway viaduct plan would put trains “50ft in the air” say residents

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Bedford Train at Station
Residents have expressed their fear that trains will be travelling on a 50ft viaduct

Residents have spoken of their fear of “terrifying” proposals to build a new railway viaduct north of Bedford for the controversial East West Rail project.

A public consultation exercise launched by the railway company includes a proposal to put a new line from Bedford to Cambridge under Great Ouse Way and then span the river, Paula Radcliffe Way, and Clapham Road on a “single viaduct” before going under Carriage Drive.

“Having trains 50ft in the air does worry me immensely,” said resident Clive Bolton last week at an online panel meeting organised by Bedford Borough Council.

“No-one wants a railway line at the back of their garden and it worries me that this won’t be done for the best benefit of everyone around,” said Mr Bolton.

He said he is concerned about construction work, blight, and noise pollution.

Mike Adamson, speaking of a 900m long viaduct, said “it feels terrifying”.

John Shortland, Bedford Borough Council’s chief officer for planning and infrastructure development, told the virtual meetings that the council is “investigating” whether to suggest to the rail company that the line to Cambridge goes under Paula Radcliffe Way rather than over it.

The council has controversially supported the new line coming from the south of town, through Bedford Midland Station, and then branching off through north Beds countryside and on to Cambridge.

They say that it would be an “interchange of national importance”, bringing 468 jobs to the town by allowing companies to be based in Bedford but to connect to London, Cambridge and Oxford, and the north.

But residents at last week’s meetings challenged the economic case underpinning the council’s support for the line, saying that the pandemic has changed whether people would use it.

Resident Jessica Owen asked Cllr Michael Headley (Lib Dem, Putnoe), the council’s portfolio holder for finance, whether the council will “withdraw your support” for the controversial northern Route E.

Cllr Headley did not give a yes or no answer to that, instead insisting that the council will deal with “what’s in front of us”.

In responding to resident Chris Bund’s assertion that the council should “rescind route E”, Mr Shortland said they would not try to re-open the question.

There were repeated questions over the council not supporting the re-opening of the old Varsity Line.

Mayor Dave Hodgson (Lib Dem) said: “Wherever we go there will be swathes of countryside.”

Residents were urged to look at the consultation documents, which also contain proposals for new stations, and station relocations, and respond to the consultation exercise.

The consultation closes on June 9, with the proposals, links to consultation documents and how to respond are here: https://eastwestrail.co.uk/consultation

There have been more than 1,200 views of the two question and answer sessions broadcast last week on YouTube.

More than 400 questions were submitted and the council says it will publish its answers on its website.

The council is due to decide its official response to East West Rail at a meeting of its full council on June 2.

by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter

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