Council and Network Rail agree demolition of homes unnecessary

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A report looking at options around the East West Rail route north of Bedford Midland has shown that the service could run effectively using just the existing four lines, and avoid the need to demolish any homes in the Poets area.

Bedford Borough Council commissioned SLC Rail, specialists in rail projects, to conduct a technical review of this section of the route in response to the East West Rail Company’s current consultation proposing six tracks to run north of the station.

This would require over 50 homes to be compulsorily purchased and potentially demolished, nearly 50 more to lose some of their land or gardens and another rebuilding of the Bromham Road Bridge causing further disruption to local residents on this busy route into the town.

This report shows that East West Rail trains could run on the existing lines, as in a standard hour of train services there is still 28 minutes – nearly half of the time – where the line is free and an East West Rail service could run. 

It also shows that this free time could be extended to 40 minutes in the hour with some relatively minor changes to the track layout within its existing boundaries.

This report concludes that with efficient timetabling and some track layout adjustments it is possible to bring the East West Rail service through Bedford Midland without the need to demolish homes. 

This would also be a cheaper option than the proposed six tracks.

Mayor Dave Hodgson said: “This report confirms what we have said all along – that there is no need for extra lines on the section of track north of Bedford station to Fairhill. 

“The rail experts producing this report for the Council have demonstrated that with a few relatively minor adjustments to the track layout there is ample capacity for East West Rail trains to and from Cambridge, without the need for the government to compulsorily purchase homes in the Poets area. 

“We can also see that Network Rail came to this same conclusion in a report they have recently released. 

“We will now continue to push the East West Railway Company to adopt this revised approach, so that our community can benefit from this once in a generation investment that will bring jobs and businesses to Bedford Borough without the loss of homes in the Poets area.”

GREEN COUNCILLORS CALL FOR PROTECTION OF ALL HOMES

Cllr Lucy Bywater said: “My fellow councillor Ben Foley and I are glad, but not at all surprised, that the study has revealed what was clear to us all along, that East West Rail’s talk of demolishing premises in the Poets area was always unnecessary.

“We are, however, frustrated that no efforts have been made by the council to commission a study into how to avoid similarly unnecessary threats hanging over residents of Ashburnham Road, in Castle Ward, that we represent.

“There is no more need to demolish homes on Ashburnham Road to rebuild the station than there is to demolish homes to get the tracks north out of Bedford.

“In addition the council should be looking at the detail of the proposals for the rural areas of north Bedfordshire to make sure threats of demolitions there are also shown to be unnecessary. We have been running a petition https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/bedford-against-rail-demolitions/ that is aimed at avoiding all these demolitions, at all locations in Bedford Borough.”

Ben Foley added: “The council should be looking how to maximise the opportunity for Bedford, which should include a new fast line platform for southbound East Midlands trains.

“Councillor Bywater and I are disappointed by the failure of ambition shown in the SLC technical note. The consultation documentation talks of the advantage to East West Rail of having such a new southbound fast line platform.

“Bedford should be seizing on this opportunity, which would enable through trains from Leicester to Bedford to resume, after they end this week.”  

Ben Foley finished by commenting “It is a relief to see that the bulk of the threatened demolitions have been shown to be so easily avoidable.

“However, there are many more aspects of the East-West Rail proposals that still need attention. These include ways of making sure that travel to-and-from Bedford’s stations by bus, cycle and on foot are as easy and practical as possible.”