Countryside charity hits out at preferred East West Rail route through Bedford

It claims major freight would go through the town's centre 24/7
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Countryside charity CPRE Bedfordshire has hit out at the official preferred route of East West Rail link between Bedford and Cambridge.

It says this will mean a major freight route will now go through the centre of Bedford and claims this was not made clear to at the time of the East West Rail Route Options Consultation last year.

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The Mayor’s recommendation of Route E will take the new railway through the centre of Bedford, whereas CPRE Bedfordshire prefer Route B which would include a Parkway station at Wixams.

The preferred route of the East West RailThe preferred route of the East West Rail
The preferred route of the East West Rail

Paul Jenkins, of CPRE Bedfordshire, said: “The East West Rail Consortium promotes the new line as providing a major freight transport link connecting the principal East Coast ports to Cambridge, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Swindon and beyond, carrying huge containers travelling to and from countries across the world.

"No other major conurbation across the Oxford – Cambridge Arc wishes to see this freight going through their town/city centres unless it has to. It is likely that freight traffic will operate 24/7, disturbing residents’ peace and tranquillity through the night.

"Oxford will have an Oxford North Parkway Station, Milton Keynes will use Bletchley, south of the city centre, and Cambridge will have a link with the West Anglia mainline well south of the city itself, allowing for a Parkway option.

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"The Mayor has simply not thought this matter through – taking this principal rail line through the centre of town will not make Bedford a more attractive town in which to live and work – quite the opposite. He appears to be ignoring the environmental impacts of his decisions.”

And he was particularly concerned it would affect communities adjacent to the line such as Queens Park.

But Cllr Michael Headley disagreed and said: “We have to do the best for our borough and it would be a kick in the teeth for our economy if we saw this 100mph high speed passenger railway linking Oxford and Cambridge just bypass Bedford without stopping in the town. This is a vital piece of new infrastructure for our area that the council has been lobbying for since 1995, with cross-party support.

“The East West Railway company are building a frequent, fast passenger service that links Bedford with other key economies to our mutual benefit. Just like the existing railway, there may well be some freight trains but that is not the aim of the railway.

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“Don’t forget that the rejected routes bypassing Bedford had looked set to kill off the Wixams railway station, causing an even greater hit to our borough. These alternative routes bypassing Bedford would have caused an environmental impact, such as a threat to the RSPB Nature Reserve at Sandy.”

Earlier this month Bedford Today how the Tories were in a row over "freight doom" at the East West Rail route through the town.An e-petiton has also been set up here which has already been signed by 1,433 people in favour of a full public consultation, followed by a debate at full council about the preferred route.