Bedford mayor deeply disappointed after East West Rail summit

“They seem determined to move ahead with the current route”
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The Bedford mayor is said to be deeply disappointed after a crunch meeting with bosses behind the planned East West Rail scheme.

The summit – at Borough Hall – brought together the mayor, senior officers and councillors and leaders of the East West Rail Company.

It followed Bedford Borough Council releasing two reports it had commissioned about the scheme, which gave a breakdown of eight different possible routes – looking at how each of them compared for criteria such as economic benefit, ecological impact, and how many homes would have to be demolished to make way for the new route.

Bedford mayor. Tom WoottonBedford mayor. Tom Wootton
Bedford mayor. Tom Wootton

Tom Wootton – who spoke out strongly AGAINST the northern route during his mayoral campaign – doubled down on it and said: “We’ve shown that there is a real need to look again and decide if the current northern route really is the best one for East West Rail, and for the people of Bedford borough. Unfortunately, East West Rail made it clear they are still not going to do that. When I asked, they did agree they would formally respond to our reports, but they seem determined to move ahead with the current route.

“This scheme has the potential to bring enormous benefits to Bedford borough – but that only makes it more important to get it right. And knocking down people’s homes is not a necessity to make this happen.”

The East West Rail scheme is expected to go out for an eight-week statutory public consultation this summer, and then a second statutory public consultation in 2025.

At the end of last month, we revealed how the majority of people in the town support East West Rail, saying the changes will:

Improve access to jobs

Improve access to essential public services like hospitals

Improve how people can travel around the area

Make it easier to visit family and friends

Mayor Tom added: “This is an exceptionally exciting time for Bedford, and for the entire borough, and East West Rail could be a key part of that. But it’s crucial we get the maximum benefit from these developments, and not just settle for what we’re being given.

“I will be asking for another meeting with Huw Merriman, the minister of state for rail, who is the man behind the plans. This is something that I know so many of our residents feel strongly about, and I will fight all the way to the top.”

A spokesman for East West Rail (EWR) said: “EWR Company undertook extensive work to assess alternative alignments including those detailed in the report commissioned by the mayor of Bedford in advance of setting out our preferred route last May. We explained then why we are confident this route is the best option for Bedford. It will deliver fast and frequent services which will help attract more businesses, jobs and investment into the town centre as well as making it easier for patients, staff and visitors get to the hospital – a service people can rely on day by day.

“We do though remain fully open to receiving new information and are actively considering the council’s report as part of our ongoing design work. We will continue to meet regularly with key stakeholders including the mayor who met our chief executive to discuss the reports last month. All stakeholders and the local community will also be able to have their say on the project and our plans when we hold our statutory consultation in the first half of this year. “