East West Rail "caught with their pants down" Bedford mayor tells transport committee

He added that he felt the consultation has been “bodged and not done well”
Mayor Tom Wootton at the Transport Committee march 6, 2024. Screenshot parliament.tvMayor Tom Wootton at the Transport Committee march 6, 2024. Screenshot parliament.tv
Mayor Tom Wootton at the Transport Committee march 6, 2024. Screenshot parliament.tv

Bedford’s mayor has claimed a report into the East West Rail project has caught those running the project with “their pants down”.

Mayor Tom Wootton was speaking in Westminster this morning (March 6) at the Transport Committee.

The committee was scrutinising the East West Rail project as part of its strategic transport objectives inquiry.

Read More
East West Rail: community involvement 'extremely important' - but CEO says it ca...

This session followed a recent National Audit Office (NAO) report which said the Government “is not yet clear how the benefits of the project will be achieved nor how it aligns to other government plans for growth in the region”.

Mayor Wootton said: “We want best things to happen to our borough and best things to happen to Bedford. But it was a disappointment that the National Audit Office had found them with their pants down.

“They have not done their homework and they haven’t done it well, and the Audit Office caught them out. It’s a damning report really and it’s something that when it says the HM Treasury should head up on establishing a cross-government shared vision, this sort of stuff is pretty horrible for East West Rail to read.”

Greg Smith, the Conservative MP for Buckingham, asked if the residents of Bedfordshire as a whole had been listened to.

Mayor Wootton said there was a contrast with how National Highways “put parish councils and people first” with the dual carriageway between Bedford and Cambridge.

“I really do feel the [East West Rail] consultation has been bodged and not done well,” he said. “[National Highways] pulled out the stops and really learned their lessons. And we have East West Rail who have a level of distrust that’s almost palpable when parish councils meet with them, and with members and with councillors.

“There is a real problem of trust between East West Rail and what they’re saying. There is a problem with the consultation and now we’re going into more consultation and it’s building on the consultation that’s already flawed,” he said.

“The Highways Agency [sic] are getting it more or less right, even though they have upset individuals locally.

“East West Rail have got themselves in a huge mess and everybody along the [route] is having whip rounds and precepts are going up to fight this tooth and nail,” he said.