Bedford mayor still opposed to East West Rail's six-track plan as he sets out strategy

“We have consistently campaigned to keep the existing four-track entry – our residents deserve better”

By Clare Turner
Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 12:01 pm

Mayor Dave Hodgson has renewed his and the council's opposition to East West Rail’s proposed six tracks north of Bedford as part of its updated rail strategy.

He’s outlined four priorities which he says will deliver long-term sustainable growth for the town.

· Delivering the new Wixams station

East West Rail protest signs in Bedford's Poets area

· Maximising the benefits of East West Rail, including opposing six tracks north of Bedford and calling for electrification from day one

· A new, sustainable transport hub at Bedford Midland station

· Improving Bedford’s connectivity

He said “This is an important update to the strategy from 2019. As well as clearly setting out our priorities for rail in Bedford borough and beyond, it also sets out our opposition to six tracks north of Bedford Midland and our frustration with how residents have been treated by the East West Rail (EWR) Company.

East West Rail protest signs in the town's Poets area

“We have consistently campaigned to keep the existing four-track entry and believe that our residents deserve better than repeated delays to decisions and inconsistent communications. It is unacceptable.”

It’s hoped the new Wixams station will alleviate the pressure on Bedford Midland station and the car park there.

Four Thameslink trains per hour will call at the station each way when it opens in 2024.

Councillor Michael Headley, portfolio holder for rail, said: “A new station has always been part of the plans for Wixams, and now that we are leading on the development, we are seeing great progress towards the planned opening in 2024.”

On EWR, he added: “We cannot support some of the actions of the government’s EWR Company, particularly their unnecessary proposal for extra tracks north of Bedford and the awful way they have treated people impacted by their proposals with unacceptable delays whilst the future of their homes is at risk.

"It’s important to update our 2019 strategy to reflect the current situation, including our concerns from the last EWR Company consultation that obviously only happened long after our last strategy was published.

“EWR allows us to build new transport hubs, including a regeneration of the area around Bedford Midland. This will be a catalyst for the town centre, generating jobs and boosting the local economy. The railway will also provide huge environmental benefits, by replacing thousands of road journeys with a much more sustainable form of transport.

"To maximise these benefits, it is important that the line is electrified from day one – we have and will continue to lobby the EWR Company for this.”

The mayor added: “Another key priority of this strategy is maximising the borough’s connectivity to other regions. We will continue to fight for much improved rail services to the Midlands and the North.

"Bedford Midland station could serve as a hub to six international airports and Eurostar services. However, With EWR, it is essential there are no further delays or unnecessary extra lines pushed forward by the EWR Company. All our residents, and especially those directly impacted, deserve better.”

The preferred route has caused much controversy after it was revealed homes in the Poets area could be demolished.