25 October, 2023
BFARe met Beth West, CEO of EWRCo and former Commercial Director of HS2 Ltd, on 25th October. BFARe sought an explanation as to why EWR had failed to consider our objections to Route E/Alignment in their Route Update Announcement released May 2023.
To summarise the outcome of the meeting:
- EWR Co will not reconsider its preferred route decision of Route E despite all the evidence, including their own route announcement documentation, that there are better and cheaper options.
- No explanation has been given as to why BFARe’s proposals had not been considered as part of their route consultation response work carried out between 2021 and 2023.
- They did not share with us any detail how they had assessed any viable alternatives to Route E.
In May 2023, EWRCo announced their preferred route for the railway between Bedford and Cambridge (Alignment 1 with the “Tempsford variant”). Alongside the announcement document were an Economic and Technical Report (ETR) and a Consultation Feedback Report, which contained EWRCo’s response to the representations made in the 2021 consultation.
In response to the EWR Route Consultation in 2021, BFARe had put in a very detailed technical response including an option for a 3-way rail link south of Bedford, which provides many benefits to passengers, freight and avoids the need for house demolitions in the Poets area of Bedford and the devastation of arable farmland and greenfield countryside.
However, EWRCo’s recent RUA documentation regarding the BFARe consultation response did not consider BFARe’s alternative route proposal but instead, mixed up the BFARe route proposal with other route alternatives not proposed by BFARe. Their comments regarding BFARe’s response raised absolutely irrelevant and spurious criticisms.
After BFARe challenged EWR on the blatant sidelining of the BFARe alternative route proposal, EWRCo eventually issued a Technical Note on 4 Sep 2023 addressing the BFARe recommendations, in partisan fashion, to which BFARe responded with a rebutting Technical Note prior to the 25 Oct meeting.
Our takeaway points from the meeting with Beth West are:
- EWRCo will not reconsider its preferred route through Bedford as Route E (Alignment I), despite all of the evidence, including their own, that indicates there are better and cheaper options.
- There is no explanation as to why BFARe’s proposals had not been considered seriously in all the work they had supposedly done between 2021 and 2023.
- They did not share with us any detail how they had assessed any alternatives to Route E.
- While Bedford will suffer many years of construction and travel blight throughout the EWR construction process, Beth and Hannah did not seem to realise that Bedford town and its citizens could actually be worse off with the railway once it’s built. We explained that more people would be attracted to more dynamic and larger places to live such as Cambridge and Milton Keynes for both work and leisure.
- They are vague as to how all the non-railway impact on town centre infrastructure will be handled, such as road congestion or parking shortages. Instead, EWR Co suggests their budget might include some measures to deal with these infrastructure issues, but they would also look to our local authority (and tax payers) to sort out any problems.
BFARe stated that the entire process of route selection had been flawed and that EWRCo had lost all trust locally. EWR Co does not treat BFARe (representing 9 parishes and CPRE) and local residents seriously. We believe that their attitude towards campaign groups and local residents mimics the behaviour of HS2 Ltd as recently documented.