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Full Council vote backs positive case for East West Rail via Bedford

February 25, 2021 7:45 AM
Originally published by Bedford Borough Liberal Democrats

Bedford StationBedford Borough Council have reaffirmed the positive case for East West Rail and the importance of local residents' views in shaping the government project, via a vote at a Full Council meeting

The cross party vote, with support from Conservative, Green, Independent, Labour and Liberal Democrat Councillors, approved Councillor Michael Headley's motion which reiterated the Council's longstanding support for an East West Rail route serving Bedford. It also noted that the Government chose the preferred route over a year ago, following a public consultation which drew 7,000 responses.

The motion resolved that the Council should keep pressing for disruption to be minimised, including through electrification of the line, and for local voices to be heard in the Government's process of determining the detailed route.

Commenting, Councillor Headley said "East West Rail is a vital piece of new infrastructure for our area that the council has been lobbying for since 1995, and it was good news for Bedford Borough when the Government chose the route via Bedford Station over a year ago. A route bypassing Bedford to the south would have been a blow for our economy and severely reduced the benefits of the railway for residents across Bedford Borough. It also almost certainly would have killed off the vital Wixams Railway Station.'

"Those alternative routes bypassing Bedford would have had a greater environmental impact, such as threatening the RSPB Nature Reserve at Sandy, and it was found that the preferred route would have no greater noise impact than the alternatives. However, we will keep pressing for any disruption before and during the running of the railway to be minimised, and for local people to take part in the forthcoming consultation on the detailed route.'

"It's pleasing that the Full Council meeting endorsed this approach, which is designed to help us get the best for Bedford Borough from this frequent, fast new passenger rail service to Oxford and Cambridge."

In a report published at the time of the Government's announcement of the preferred route in January 2020, the East West Rail Company concluded that the Government's preferred Route E (through Bedford) "delivers the best valued for the taxpayer, returning the most benefit for every pound spent". It also reported that "It was the most popular option with people who responded to our consultation" and that "It delivers the best opportunities for the environment."

During the 2019 consultation on five shortlisted routes, there was unanimous cross party support locally for a route via Bedford. The consultation was promoted to local residents by Mayor Dave Hodgson and by Bedford Borough Council, whose long-standing support for a route through Bedford Station has been subject to numerous public consultations, including in the recent Local Plan 2030.

More information on the East West Rail project and the preferred route option is available at www.bedfordlibdems.org.uk/EWRail

The full text of Councillor Michael Headley's motion, approved by Full Council tonight, is as follows:

Council notes:

  1. That the decision on the preferred route corridor has been taken, by the East West Rail Company and the government, following a public consultation and engagement process in 2019.
  2. Bedford Borough Council promoted the public consultation to local residents, including making clear its preferred route, supported by all parties on the Council.
  3. The Council's preference for the route of East West rail to pass through Bedford Midland station is long established, including through local development scheme documents dating back to 2011, and throughout the Local Plan 2030 plan-making process. These processes included extensive, repeated rounds of public consultation.
  4. The Council's preference is based on many reasons, including the £6.23m (12%) greater annual economic benefit of a Bedford Midland route over a route to the south of the town, and the greater number of Bedford Borough residents who will benefit from the work and leisure opportunities presented by East West Rail.
  5. East West Railway Company concluded that the preferred route "delivers the best value for the taxpayer, returning the most benefit for every pound spent" and "It was the most popular option with people who responded to our consultation" and finally that "It delivers the best opportunities for the environment."
  6. The selection of a route via Bedford has enabled progress to be made on the much-needed Wixams station, while a southern route would have likely been fatal to it.
  7. A new consultation on the route alignment is expected from the East West Railway Company in the next few weeks.

Council resolves that the Executive is asked:

  1. To maintain Bedford Borough Council's commitment to work to minimise the disruption to local residents and the natural environment during the construction and operation of East West Rail.
  2. To promote the East West Railway Company's forthcoming public consultation on the alignment of the line between Bedford and Cambridge, and to encourage Bedford Borough residents to take part.
  3. To lobby for the full electrification of the railway, including recognising the benefits of a quieter electrified railway.