Rail bypass needed to stop village near Bedford being 'severed in half' by East West Rail

“It would sever the village in half and destroy the community, which would be a disaster”
Lidlington station.Lidlington station.
Lidlington station.

Without a rail bypass option a Bedfordshire community could be split down the middle by the East West Rail (EWR) route, a meeting heard.

The Marston Vale railway line runs through Lidlington and upgrading it as part of the up to £8bn project would spell "disaster" for local residents, a Central Bedfordshire Council meeting was warned.

Conservative Cranfield and Marston Moretaine councillor Sue Clark explained: "The best solution is a rail bypass running through the countryside north of the village, which would avoid splitting Lidlington in two.

"The only connection between the two halves of the village is over the Station Road crossing. It's currently a sleepy line, with one passenger train once an hour and some freight occasionally.

"But that all changes with EWR's plans to upgrade the line. It might need to close the road crossing. It would sever the village in half and destroy the community, which would be a disaster.

"After an outcry from residents and many objections, EWR is investigating whether the crossing can remain open through traffic modelling and safety assessments, or if an alternative solution is needed.

"It's considering whether to keep a crossing open with an extra road connection east of the village, which as a back-up would be our absolute preference.

"There remains great uncertainty, although it's good to know EWR is looking into a rail bypass. Even if it keeps the crossing open, the barriers would be down for a prolonged period of every hour, with extra trains travelling at faster speeds and much more freight on the line.

"If the Universal theme park opens, we'll have further pressure for more and longer trains," she said. "There'll be no guarantee that an open crossing won't be forced to close at some point in the future, especially when the 5,000 homes for the Marston Valley are built.

"A rail bypass is still the most preferable and best option, with the full support of the parish council. It removes all the issues associated with increased frequency, speed and freight, as well as community severance.

"We shouldn't be pushed into accepting a compromise. The administration has seemed reluctant to reaffirm CBC's commitment to this.

"Time is of the essence, with EWR's development consent order due to be published and consulted on later this year."

Independent Toddington councillor Mary Walsh and executive member for planning replied: "In previous consultations, CBC has supported the concept of a Lidlington rail bypass.

"EWR produced a route update report last May, which continued to envisage trains running through the village. But it made clear further design work is being done, with another consultation later this year.

"It doesn't seem sense to commit the council to a solution in a single location, without seeing all the revised information, so I don't feel we can support this (councillor Clark's) motion."

Independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny said: "This could be a potentially very expensive project. I would be more comfortable supporting something which allows us to fully understand the requirements of the local community."

An EWR spokesman confirmed a statutory consultation is due this year and that the DCO submission will follow at a later stage.

The council approved the motion to reaffirm its support for a Lidlington rail bypass, at no cost to the authority, and press EWR to achieve this preferred and best solution for the village.