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Freight trains to run through the centre of Bedford

22nd February 2021

CPRE Bedfordshire is very concerned by the East West Rail Consortium’s recent confirmation that East West Rail will be a freight line as well as a passenger transport rail route.

This means that a major freight route will now go through the centre of Bedford. This was not made clear to local people at the time of the East West Rail Route Options Consultation last year.

The Mayor’s recommendation of Route E, which takes this new railway through the centre of Bedford, means that residents in the town will be subjected to substantial additional air, noise and vibration pollution.

Particularly affected will be the communities adjacent to the line such as Queens Park, but the environmental impact will be felt right across the western side of town.

This new freight line will be in addition to the current north-south rail freight using the Midland Mainline which already goes through the town, and where volume is planned to increase as freight traffic is rightly encouraged to move off the road network.


The CPRE Bedfordshire view

The East West Rail Consortium promotes the new line as providing a major freight transport link connecting the principal East Coast ports to Cambridge, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Swindon and beyond, carrying huge containers travelling to and from countries across the world.

We believe that carrying freight on East West Rail brings positive opportunities to reduce heavy goods traffic on the roads and should be encouraged. However, this ambition for the railway, which features in the East West Rail Consortium Prospectus of January 2019, is another reason why the choice of Route E is a very poor choice.

No other major conurbation across the Oxford – Cambridge Arc wishes to see this freight going through their town/city centres unless it has to. It is likely that freight traffic will operate 24/7, disturbing residents’ peace and tranquillity through the night.

Oxford will have an Oxford North Parkway Station, Milton Keynes will use Bletchley, south of the city centre, and Cambridge will have a link with the West Anglia mainline well south of the city itself, allowing for a Parkway option.

The Mayor has simply not thought this matter through – taking this principal rail line through the centre of town will not make Bedford a more attractive town in which to live and work – quite the opposite. He appears to be ignoring the environmental impacts of his decisions.


What do CPRE Bedfordshire recommend?

Route B, which would include a Parkway station at Wixams, reducing traffic entering Bedford Town Centre, improving the quality of life of Bedford residents.

The Mayor’s choice of Route E will cause serious environmental pollution to town residents and lead to the destruction of the hugely important North Bedfordshire countryside and the Great Ouse Valley, opening it up to the development of new towns.

CPRE Bedfordshire supports East West Rail (electrified) in principle, but see it primarily as a means of reducing congestion on major road networks, reducing air pollution and carbon footprint, not as a means of creating a massive new urban conurbation stretching from Oxford to Cambridge – our full response to the East West Rail Route Consultation recommending Route B, can be found here.


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