Cyclists and a wheelchair-using councillor have slammed plans for the design of a replacement railway bridge on a busy town road.
Two-wheeled campaigners say there will be no cycle lane, while the councillor says the new rail bridge in Bedford will be more difficult to ride on because it will have a steeper hump to get over.
Network Rail made the application for the replacement of the 162-year-old railway bridge at Bromham Road to Bedford Borough Council. They did not need to but there have been delays in the Government giving the official go-ahead and council officers say they made the application to speed up the process.
Councillors at Monday’s Planning Committee were also told that if they refused the application, the Government would probably overrule them anyway.
“Bedford is a town of cyclists,” said Peter Blakeman, of the Cycling Campaign for North Bedfordshire. “Cyclists have been waiting more than 20 years for this once in a lifetime opportunity but this will leave a gap in provision.”
Network Rail wants to make the bridge bigger to be able to put in electric lines overhead on the tracks between London and Corby by December 2020.
Speaking about the bridge’s steeper incline, Cllr Ben Foley (Green, Castle) said: “For all of us reliant on human power to get over it, this will be a significant disadvantage.”
He added that the bridge would not increase the number of trains stopping at Bedford, as it is intended to improve services to Corby. Council officers supported him in this view.
“This is a missed opportunity by only going for a partial rebuild,” he said.
Council planner Greg Logan, in his report to the committee, said the lack of enhancements with respect to dual pedestrian/cycle use should be weighed against the benefit of electrifying the rail line north of Bedford.
By six votes to two councillors voted in favour of the application.
After the meeting a spokesman for Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “Bedford Borough Council is pushing ahead with plans announced last year for a dedicated pedestrian and cyclist bridge to provide access over the rail line at Bromham Road. This follows support for the plans in a local consultation.
The council has negotiated an agreement with Network Rail to enable it to construct the bridge following completion of the adjacent road bridge. The new cycle and footbridge will meet the highest possible standards of accessibility for all users.”