Row erupts over impact of East West Rail proposals on Bedford countryside

Charity blasts mayor, saying route should have station at Wixams - but he says that means 150 homes would be demolished

Friday, 14th May 2021, 3:50 pm
Updated Friday, 14th May 2021, 3:52 pm

A row has erupted between CPRE Bedfordshire and Bedford's mayor over which is the best East West Rail route.

Although the countryside charity welcomed Bedford Borough Council's report which said houses in the Poets area didn't need to be demolished - as revealed by Bedford Today earlier this week - it criticised him for making a "mistake" for not choosing the southern route.

But the mayor - David Hodgson - was quick to point out that that particular route would mean 150 homes being demolished at Wixams

Protests signs around Poets area

In a statement from CPRE Bedfordshire, it said: "We look forward to him belatedly recognising the environmental destruction that will be imposed on other parts of the Bedford urban area (eg Ampthill Road) by a passenger and freight carrying railway, and the adverse impact on the North Bedfordshire countryside of the new railway and the proposed New Towns that East West Rail is designed to encourage.

"The East West Rail Company’s proposals also entail hugely expensive civil engineering works, including a massive and environmentally destructive, 15m high viaduct over the A6 and the River Great Ouse Valley and very deep and technically challenging cuttings in rural north Bedfordshire.

"Works in the Bedford urban area in the proposals include changes to St John's Station, and a replacement of the recently completed railway bridge on Bromham Road, which will cause major disruption to people's lives for many years to come.

"It's time that the mayor admitted that he has made a mistake and that a southern route, based on Route B with a Parkway Station at Wixams, is a far cheaper option, less disruptive in civil engineering terms, and one which will have the least environmental impact on both urban and rural areas."

However, mayor Dave Hodgson was quick to respond. He said: “I've become increasingly surprised that CPRE Bedfordshire seem only to have an interest in the area north of Bedford and seem to show little identification with the villages and countryside south of the town.

"Unlike this organisation I care about the whole of the borough - our towns, villages and countryside, no matter where it is.

"The CPRE preference would mean the need to demolish 150 homes in Wixams and run the railway close to south of Bedford communities such as Elstow and Shortstown whilst Network Rail plans also show a southern route crossing the river on a viaduct right next to Great Barford.

"I know that residents impacted by the route would prefer the route went somewhere else - that is totally understandable. But the alternatives suggested cause more problems and give less benefit to our borough in terms of jobs and the boost to our economy.

"We will do everything we can to reduce the impact of this railway no matter what route goes forward.”