October 19th, 2021 – Wyboston
North Bedfordshire Parish Councils finally met East West Rail on Tuesday, October 19th in Wyboston where East West Rail sought to restrict and control the attendance and agenda.
• EWR are making decisions that impact lives, homes and livelihoods on the basis of non-statutory consultations.
• EWR did not calculate the relative carbon impact of all five routes at the time of selection. They do not know whether they have selected the most carbon-efficient route. Selecting a route and trying to mitigate carbon impact retrospectively is putting lipstick on their Route E pig.
• EWR do not consider the demolition of 100 homes or the declaration of a climate emergency as significant enough reasons to warrant a back-check of their route selection data.
• EWR have not assessed the air pollution impact that this route will create in Bedford town centre, which already fails World Health Organisation air quality guidelines.
A Shocking Box Ticking Exercise
The meeting was simply a box-ticking exercise where East West Rail exposed the sheer inadequacies in their route selection process and demonstrated a complete disregard for Bedford residents lives, health and homes.
The EWR attempt to limit councillors’ questions fell flat and both Will Gallagher and Simon Blanchflower were placed in uncomfortable positions during the meeting. In particular:-
– They were forced to acknowledge that they have NOT performed embedded carbon calculations for the construction of ANY of the routes. And thus in deciding their currently preferred route, they did in no way consider the impact of the construction on the environment during a time of climate crisis.
– They have performed a back check for North Cambridge section due to cost changes – but refuse to do so for Bedford. EWR state that the demolition of homes in Bedford and the declaration of the climate emergency are “Insignificant” and “Do not warrant a backcheck”.
– EWR were unable to answer questions on why the costs changed, and what the current cost estimates are. They refused to share costs for Bedford and two other sections – meaning no cost comparison can be made, so they don’t know whether there is a “significant” cost change. They did not answer why EWR feels the need to hide these costs if there is no problem with them.
– They could not explain why secret and undocumented meetings were held with Bedford Borough Council in August and September 2019, and why discussions of the possibility of home demolitions in Poets and Ashburnham were NOT disclosed to those impacted.
– EWR are still very vague about freight: they do not know the role of freight, the freight demand on their railway, nor where EWR stands in terms of the National Freight strategy. Just that there will be freight and there will be Diesel traction.
– EWR were unable to accept accountability for the flawed process of Route selection and public consultation. For example, Queens Park, Bromham and Biddenham were omitted, and 95% residents in some of the other directly affected parishes (according to EWR’s postcode list) were also omitted; this is despite Route E running right through or being immediately adjacent to these post codes.
– In particular, they said that the one ad in the Times and Citizen and two public events (neither of which were in the Route E corridor) during the Route Consultation was enough to satisfy their decision to take the EWR destructively through a populated town centre and the virgin North Bedfordshire countryside.
As part of the meeting agenda, East West Rail requested a presentation from BFARe on our proposed alternative route, but then banned the right people from BFARe to be in attendance. BFARe pushed for a more constructive collaborative meeting with the right people in the room, and for a follow up public meeting. EWR have yet to agree to this meeting.
BFARe means Bedford For A Reconsultation: Please stand with us, sign our petition and raise your voice against this destructive route before it is too late.
Please write to your councillors and MP asking them to rescind their support for the destructive route through Bedford.