The East West Rail (EWR) project is a key piece of national infrastructure development that will support significant economic and environmental gain for the country.
However, the Mayor and his team on Bedford Borough Council (BBC) have controversially chosen to support Route E – a route that will permanently harm the undulating, unspoilt North Bedfordshire countryside, a topographically challenging route given that its route takes it through the only hills for miles.
It’s clear from the BBC Route Consultation response from The Mayor and the Council, that the main reason for the route choice is to support the creation of a new town of up to 10,000 homes – almost 3 times the size of the town of Ampthill, centred on Twinwoods in the north Bedfordshire countryside. Another new town for 4,500 homes is planned for Colworth near Sharnbrook.
Many Parish Councils have joined forces to campaign against the Mayor’s choice of Route E. This route did not receive cross party support as has been suggested in recent weeks: it was never put to Full Council for discussion and approval and Councillors were presented with a fait accompli.
The Parish Councils joining to object so far are Ravensden, Wilden, Renhold, Clapham, Thurleigh, Gt Barford, Oakley, Colmworth, Bletsoe and Wyboston. It is hoped that more north Beds Parish Councils will also join once the likely adverse effects of Route E are more widely known.
The group believes that the choice of route must be challenged on the grounds of economy, line usage and environmental impact not to mention the huge amount of residential and other development in our area this route will bring with it.
Originally Route E was costed as the most expensive with an estimated cost of £3.9b with route A being the cheapest. It is now, very surprisingly, considered to be significantly cheaper than the three alternative southern options. No explanation has been provided for that change despite requests for information.
During its consultation EWR only referred to passenger traffic and there was little mention of the use of the line for freight. Now, it is becoming clear that the line will be used for freight trains. The environmental impact of freight trains 24/7, but particularly at night through the tranquil countryside north of Bedford and the densely populated inner urban areas of Bedford, requires a complete re-evaluation.
To protect the environment, the line should take the shortest, most environmentally friendly route. Future pollution from diesel fumes from trains (especially freight trains) should be minimised by shorter, faster lines. The alternative shorter, flatter southern routes run alongside existing major road infrastructure and development corridors, so the environmental impact would be significantly reduced. Route E is also the most topographically challenging since it has to go through the only hills for miles.
The group is asking for an independent analysis to give the definitive answer as to whether Route E is demonstrably cheaper, less environmentally damaging and appropriate for freight traffic.
The group has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer requesting a review of the funding for route E and to the Minister for Transport Chris Heaton-Harris requesting a meeting. A response was received from the Chancellor last week unfortunately rejecting the request.
The group has launched a petition to ensure their voices are heard and as a result, the choice of Route E will at last be debated by full Council’s on February 24th. The petition can be found at the bottom of this article. We would encourage you to sign it.
KMNBG would encourage all Parish Councils and residents to join support the North Beds Parishes. We are stronger together and must work to protect our beautiful north Bedfordshire countryside from what is an increasingly autocratic and anti-rural Borough Council.
Our area is already under significant threat from over development as a result of the huge sites (Twinwoods 6,000 – 10,000 and Colworth 4,500 new homes) put forward for consideration in the Borough’s new local Plan due to be consulted on later in the year, Route E will only encourage more huge development in our area and what is now the beautiful Great Ouse Valley will become an urban sprawl.
Bedford is the only major conurbation on the E/W Rail route that intends to have the new Rail route going through the centre of it. Oxford and Cambridge will have Parkway Stations outside the centre of each city, Milton Keynes will use Bletchley station and Aylesbury will have an Aylesbury North station.
It is now clear that E/W Rail is intended to be a major freight route as well as passenger route. It will eventually link the East Coast Ports through Cambridge and Oxford to Swindon and beyond, to enable the movement of huge amounts of freight. That is why all other towns/cities prefer Parkway stations.
Taking a second major freight line such as East West Rail (there is already a major MML freight service) operating mostly at night, through the centre of Bedford will increase air pollution, noise pollution and could cause serious vibration issues (East West Rail recognise this in their report on the choice of Route E) – it is not environmentally sustainable for a densely populated urban area – we don’t believe that this has ever been explained to the people of Bedford town living alongside or near the route.
This is in addition to the extra car traffic (and associated congestion and pollution) that will result at Bedford station simply so that people can access E/W Rail. The possibility of an E/W Rail station north of Bedford, linked to housing development, would inevitably result in the permanent loss and urbanisation of the north Bedfordshire countryside.
Have your say and sign the e-petition by following this link