Campaign group BFARe claims East West Rail project does not meet strategic transport objectives

Group wants new route which would represent ‘better choice for Bedford’
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The East West Rail project does not meet the government’s stated strategic transport objectives.

That’s according to campaign group BFARe, which is urging the Government and East West Rail to reconsider its preferred route and ‘make a better choice for Bedford’.

it voiced concerns following a meeting of the Transport Committee at Westminster, along with those of Bedford mayor Tom Wootton who claimed a report into the East West Rail project has caught those running the project with “their pants down”, as reported by Bedfordtoday

Bedford  mayor Tom Mayor addressed the Transport Committee at Westminster on March 6Bedford  mayor Tom Mayor addressed the Transport Committee at Westminster on March 6
Bedford mayor Tom Mayor addressed the Transport Committee at Westminster on March 6

The committee, which met on March 6, was scrutinising the East West Rail project as part of its strategic transport objectives inquiry.

A spokesperson from BFARe said: “As seen from the evidence submitted and interviews given during the Transport Committee meeting, the project:

> Fails to plan and provide electrified rail transport from the inception.

> Fails to provide transparent consideration and analysis of environmental impacts for the railway construction and operation, including the use of embedded carbon in analysis of route choice for CS3 (Bedford to Cambridge).

> Fails to plan and communicate a multi-modal transport strategy for EWR rail users and freight.

BFARe added The East West Rail project does not demonstrate effective cross governmental working practices, stating: “This can be seen by their continued failure, as demonstrated through this transport select committee, evidence to confirm how the project will unlock economic growth through housing growth as directly tied into the local government planning process.

“They answered very important questions with indifference – when asked about how EWR communicates with local communities Best West (EWR Co) used the LRGs as a means to demonstrate how well they’re doing (even though the groups have been consolidated and they do not follow through in their actions taken at these meetings). She also used their drop-in events as evidence of community engagement (where they took no notes of questions asked and took no actions to follow up with individuals or communities).

“They’ve decided on a railway and now the HMT EWR strategic growth board are peddling fast to come up with a way to justify the project.

“As the last business case for East West Rail (EWR Route Update Announcement 2023) demonstrated poor value for taxpayers, it is unclear what discussions, if any, have been held between the EWR Economic Growth Board, DLUHC or the Treasury regarding the housing development targets being met by the East West Rail project. What is the latest estimate of housing growth that will be unlocked by EWR and how has this estimate changed since the last published business case? Will these estimates be unique to the East West Rail project and therefore the project’s claim for economic growth be realised or will the estimates be double-counted by local plans and East West Rail?”

East West Rail’s chief executive Beth West has said community involvement is “extremely important” but it can’t spend “endless amounts of money” holding events, see Bedfordtoday story here

A spokesperson for East West Rail said:“The NAO report confirms what we set out when we announced the Route – that the case for EWR rests on the economic benefits that a new railway brings in terms of new businesses, jobs and investment, rather than just improved connectivity alone.

“As we’ve said, and as the NAO makes clear, not all of these benefits are captured in the conventional benefit-cost ratio (BCR), and therefore it is essential that we work closely with partners in Government and locally to make sure these benefits are delivered for the communities that we serve. The report acknowledges that we are already doing so, but also makes clear that more needs to be done. We welcome that – and are committed to working with Government to take forward the NAO’s recommendations.”