75% of people surveyed in Bedford support East West Rail, according to new data

Poll also revealed people believe EWR will bring benefits to town
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Three-quarters (75%) of people surveyed in Bedford support a new east-west rail service, provided by East West Rail (EWR), according to new data from the company.

The poll asked 1,000 people in Bedford – deemed by polling experts as a robust and accurate sample size – for their opinions about East West Rail – including whether they thought it would bring benefits to the town.

It found:

Image shows proposed route for East West RailImage shows proposed route for East West Rail
Image shows proposed route for East West Rail

> 80% believe it will improve access to jobs

> 75% say it will boost access to education

> 78% believe it will improve access to essential public services like hospitals

> 83% say it will improve how people can travel around the area

> 58% believe it will make it easier to visit family and friends.

Beth West, chief executive for EWR Company, said: “This new survey is strong testament to the support that Bedford residents have for East West Rail and underpins how the project will bring such game-changing benefits to the local community.

“East West Rail has been designed to improve quality of life for everyone across the region. What this poll shows is that Bedford residents agree that EWR will do that by improving people’s access to quality jobs, educational opportunities and public services. We believe the route we have chosen, which connects the town centre and Bedford Hospital, is the one that will deliver the most benefits for Bedford. It’s clear from this survey that people do recognise the opportunities our line will bring.

“It’s important that a major transport project like ours has support from people who live and work in the town. We always thought this to be the case and now have strong evidence to back this up. We will continue to work hard with local businesses and communities in Bedford to ensure East West Rail improves their everyday lives, which includes working closely with local transport providers to maximise the potential of local and regional services.”

The East West Rail project includes improvements to Bedford Midland station, which the company says will drive regeneration of the area around the station and the town centre, and relocating Bedford St Johns station closer to Bedford Hospital.

The Marston Vale Line will see a three-fold increase in services, while EWR will make Bedford just 35 minutes away from Cambridge.

The new survey follows a rallying call in December by Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce which urged Government to accelerate full delivery of East West Rail. The Chamber said EWR is vital to revitalise the town centre as a dynamic hub with better connectivity which will create jobs, boost inward investment and create a more attractive shopping, leisure and hospitality destination.

Suzanna Austin, development manager, FSB (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire), said: “Locally we are aligned with most people polled in this survey and support East West Rail in connecting Bedford to Cambridge. This connection will benefit the local business community with a much-needed modern rail infrastructure.

“Many businesses in the Bedford area currently suffer with the lack of connectivity, hampering their efforts to grow. This sustainable transport project has been a long time coming and by reforging this old connection, will aid in revitalising the local economy, increasing footfall and improving prosperity, all of which will bring a major boost to small businesses.”

Bedford Borough Council was approached for a comment.

The council’s report of alternative routes for the East West Rail project was published following a public meeting earlier this month. But a senior council officer said there was no clear winner.

The survey of 1,000 people was carried out in Bedford between 8 December 2023 and 4 January 2024 by Yonder Data Solutions.

A spokesperson for Bedford Borough Council, said: “Tom Wootton, the Mayor of Bedford Borough, met with the CEO of East West Rail on Friday, and discussed the poll with her then.

“One of our recent reports looked at the economic benefit of EWR to Bedford Borough, and found it would add over £1/4 billion to our economy - so I'm not surprised that people support the concept. What we need to do is make sure it takes the right route through our town and countryside.

“East West Rail offers real opportunities for Bedford, the Borough, and the wider region – but it has to be done right if we are to get the maximum benefit.

“We continue to listen to residents and welcome the fact that East West Rail are doing likewise.”

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