Purpose of Your Letter
Please use the LETTER THEMES below to personalise your content. The letter themes are:
- Flawed Consultation
- Environmental Concerns
- Cost Manipulation
- Omission of the Route E’s Planned Freight Use during the Consultation
- Diesel or Electric – Carbon Neutrality
- Excessive Influence of Bedford Borough Council on the Consultation Process
It is more impactive to detail how the EWR Route E decision will affect you as a concerned resident.
- Are you an unhappy voter who feels their Borough Council has not acted in a fair and open manner?
- Are you concerned about how effectively the 2019 consultation was carried out?
- Do you enjoy making most of the affected countryside?
- Or are you troubled about the environmental issues?
1. Flawed East West Rail Consultation
Focus on how / when / where the East West Rail consultation took place and how / when / if the consultation was available to you.
Here is further information based on our own Freedom of Information responses and input of local residents:
- The consultation was not adequately communicated – EWR state they sent out 120,000 post cards to affected residents, but hardly anyone along the Route E corridor and wider Bedford area remembers seeing one.
- The costs were inaccurate leading to a lack of response from North Bedford who residents have been long told over 20/30 years that a southern route was the preferred route.
- The use freight was omitted from the consultation paperwork.
- Obvious route options were not considered (St John’s, Varsity line, existing travel corridor)
- EWR state that they had 7,000 responses to the consultation, however the minutes of the EWR strategic board states the following “It introduced the EWRCo to stakeholders and public (3500 attendees; 3200 individual responses to consultation; 25,000 visitors to the EWRCo website, strong interest from local media). Clearly some, if not most of the 3,500 attendees will be amongst the 3,200 individual responses these could be double counted.
2. Environmental Concerns
Route E is longer, has more steep gradients, tighter curves, and greater journey times- it therefore requires more materials to construct and fuel to run than the alternatives.
Route E will require carving through a swathe of unspoilt countryside, rather than using an existing, flat transport corridor (e.g. the A421).
Cutting through the Bedford Borough green belt area will have an irreversible and detrimental impact delicate ecosystems, wildlife, ancient woodland and endangered species.
The devastation to the environment and wildlife will begin with the infrastructure building process. The 5-10 year building of the rail network required to climb steep hills with tight turns through oxygen rich countryside will cause absolute destruction of our woodland and green spaces. The impact on protected species and local CO2 levels will be felt for generations.
Freight is expected to be the main driver for the new Bedford to Cambridge rail link. However, the information about freight use has been kept from the public consultation process thus far. A presentation from East West Rail in December indicates that Route E will carry freight between Felixstowe and Southampton (with the UK’s biggest freight hub planned for Bicester). This freight will run through green countryside and the noise pollution and energy requirements to run freight along this route have not been studied nor has this environmental assessment data been made available to the public. (See Point 4 below for more on Freight.)
Specific bullet points regarding the impact on the wildlife include:
- The impact on wildlife. Great Crested Newts, Adders, both endangered species, are registered as living on Graze Hill. Badgers, Red Kites, Kestrels and many other species are present.
- The impact of noise and diesel fumes on the natural habitat.
- The removal of ancient Woodland
- The many and varied areas of archaeological interest.
- The route is longer, with steeper gradients and tighter curves meaning more requirement for fuel.
- Gradient and curve mean more noise pollution from squealing wheels
3. Cost Manipulation
The costs communicated during the consultation were heavily revised, without communication during the consultation process. Route E started as the most expensive by some distance. But the final report showed it as the second cheapest.
|Route Option||Cost(£bn) Pre Consultation||Cost (£bn) Post Consultation||% increase|
Many did not respond to the consultation because they thought Route E would be unlikely to be selected due to the massive cost difference.
EWR have been asked to clarify the cost calculation for the information both prior to the consultation and the costs post consultation. Also to identify where such a large increase has come from. But EWR’s lack of response and evasiveness lack transparency lead me to the conclusion that the costs may have been reverse engineered.
4. Omission of Freight from the consultation
EWR continue to evade answering direct questions on freight. Strategic National Rail Infrastructure projects must by their nature consider both passenger and freight traffic.
England’s Economic Heartland Strategic Transport Forum report, states that EWR should not justify the case purely on commuter traffic but should include freight. It goes on to say it must be W12 gauge the highest gauge in the UK, to cope with the heaviest allowed freight. It states that the line can be used to connect Freight services to both Felixstowe in the East and Southampton in the South. It says that EWR will be subject to demand but there will comfortably be capacity for 12 freight trains per day with the opportunity to optimise to “up to 20 or more”.
Network Rail’s freight report of 2017 states that the demand for freight is forecast to increase by 3% per annum to 2042. This would mean a 35% increase in demand by the time this line goes live in 2030.
I have a major concern that this will mean diesel freight, and this should have been overtly included in the original consultation.
5. Diesel or Electric – Carbon Neutrality
Why is the line not being electrified from the start? As the sections currently under construction are not there would seem little point in part-electrifying the line.
The use of hydrogen technology was discussed at a recent Full Council Meeting of BBC. But realistically this is some time away and very expensive. Which leaves the only option being diesel/hybrid trains for passenger services and diesel for freight.
The investment in rolling stock and locomotives will mean these running for a generation.
The Northern route selected is longer, has more sharp curves and more gradient challenges than the Southern routes. All these factors impact the road to carbon neutrality and make it unlikely EWR will reach its object of a carbon neutral railway by 2050, and why should we wait so long until this can be achieved?
6. Excessive Influence of Bedford Borough Council on the consultation process
Bedford Borough Council (BCC) or the BCC Mayor hold seats within East West Rail stakeholder organisations such as:-
- BBC is a member of the EWR consortium
- Cllr Headley is on the EWR Consortium Delivery Board
- Mayor Dave is on the board of SEMLEP – which is part of the EWR Consortium
- Mayor Dave is on the Board of England’s Economic Heartland – part of the EWR Consortium
- Mayor Dave is Chair of EEH’s Strategic Transport Forum – Part of the EWR consortium
- Cllr Christine McHugh is employed by Arup – Prime Engineering Contractor for EWR
BBC appeared to oversell the benefits of Route E in their response to EWR that Route E is 12% more beneficial in terms of incremental GVA growth because it delivers £6.23m extra GVA per annum.
They do not put that into context of Bedford Borough’s GVA of £4.8bn – which means it represents just 0.13% uplift per annum. A miniscule amount when the irreversible damage to the countryside and the decade of massive disruption is considered.
BBC instructed Kilborn Consultants not to consider Southern Routes, despite Kilborn Consultants stating in their first assessment that the Southern Routes are straighter, less complex and not as expensive. BBC opted to provide a cost-optimised Route E using dubious gradient standards (lower than EWR’s own standards)
This same analysis should have performed on the all the routes to give a level playing field on costs across the routes.
There is a concern that BBC have spent money on consultants and given them the answer they want and have asked them to reverse engineer the report. This consultancy expenditure was with tax payer’s money and there is little transparency about their strategic consultant selection process.
BBC have not undertaken any study into the impact of increased traffic on Bedford Midland Station or the road network approaching it. This network is already heavily congested during rush hour, would be extremely complex and require transformational development to improve.This has therefore not been taken into consideration in their impact assessment and response to the consultation.
This Route decision and the whole consultation process has only come to light in the last few weeks to many residents. This reflects badly on the communication of EWR, BBC, the Parish Councils and others.
This lack of community awareness regarding the biggest capital investment project we will see in our lifetime is an indication that we have been slept walked into this current situation, it is an indication that the efforts to communicate have been insufficient and the impacts have not been adequately explained. It is a failure of process. This is the biggest investment in this area for decades and the majority of people including myself were blissfully unaware of the action BBC was taking.
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