Rail line delays harm economy

Plan showing the East West Rail route
Plan showing the East West Rail route

A railway scheme set to boost the local economy by more than £70 million a year may be shunted into the sidings until 2022.

A leaked report suggests there will be delays to The East West Rail project to link Bedford to Oxford and Cambridge, which Bedford Mayor Dave Hodgson says will impact the region’s economic growth.

He said: “The overwhelming economic case for the rail link between Bedford and Oxford is well established.

“All this proposed delay does is push the huge benefits the project will bring further away into the future.

“Councils in the East West Rail Consortium are already working together on how cutting the cost of the scheme can make it more affordable for Network Rail.”

The Consortium believes there is a draft recommendation for East West Rail to be delivered in three phases, with Bedford to Oxford being rescheduled for completion in 2022; Aylesbury to Milton Keynes in 2024; and enhancements to the line between Aylesbury and Princes Risborough in 2026.

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy is reviewing all railway enhancement project which were due to be completed by March 2019 at the request of Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin after costs have spiralled on projects such as the West Coast Mainline Electrification.

The local authorities along the East West line within the consortium, including the Bedfordshire councils, are now calling for discussions with Sir Peter Hendy and the Government.