Letter Writing Guidance

Purpose of Your Letter

E-mail addresses for Bedford Borough and Parish Councillors, Members of Parliament, Central Government and East West Rail can be found at this link.

An example of a resident’s letter can be found at the following link: https://bfare.org.uk/harpur-ward-letter-the-real-cost-of-not-engaging-your-constituents/

However, we kindly ask you to use solely for inspiration – please write your own letters!

Please use the LETTER THEMES below to personalise your content. The letter themes are:

  1. Flawed Consultation
  2. Six Tracks Through Bedford – and your Councillor’s Knowledge
  3. Excessive Influence of Bedford Borough Council on the Consultation Process
  4. Environmental Concerns
  5. Cost Manipulation
  6. Omission of the Route E’s Planned Freight Use during the Consultation
  7. Diesel or Electric – Carbon Neutrality

1. Flawed East West Rail Consultation

Are you impacted by the current preferred Northern Route through Bedford and the North Bedfordshire Countryside? If so, how? And – most importantly – were you consulted during the 2019 Route Consultation process? IF YOU WERE NOT CONSULTED, then please let your Councillor know!

Here is further information about the lack of consultation that took place with those now impacted by the preferred route.

  • The consultation was not adequately communicated – EWR state they sent out 120,000 post cards to affected residents, but most residents now impacted by the preferred Route E corridor and wider Bedford area do not remember seeing one.
  • Only one ad was placed in the Bedford Times and Citizen to announce the Consultation according to the East West Rail’s own Consultation Response documentation.
  • There was limited announcement of the consultation from Bedford Borough Council or the Mayor. Look at your own Councillor’s use of social media or flyering – did they ask you to respond too the East West Rail consultation
  • EWR state that they had 7,000 responses to the consultation. We now know that 3500 of these responses were from the Woodland Trust alone.
  • There was only ONE public consultation event in all of Bedford at Scott Hall in Cauldwell. The ad to say where this event was taking place DID NOT even have the correct address of this Hall!

2. The Destructive Requirement for Six Tracks Through Bedford Midland – Was your Councillor Aware?

Midland Station currently has four tracks – 2 fast and 2 slow heading in each direction. East West Rail’s technical document for a Northern Route through Bedford Midland Station specifies the need for there to be six tracks and requires land purchase and home destruction in the Poets’ neighbourhood of Bedford (Harpur Ward).

In recent interviews and meetings, both Cllr Headley and the Mayor have stated that Bedford Borough Council was first aware of the six track option in:

  • July 17th 2019
  • August 2019
  • Summer 2019
  • 2020 “I think”

BBC submitted the SLC 4 track proposal to EWR in 2019 (Please see SLC 2019 Report Here).  Even having seen the SLC report in 2019, EWR’s technical specification in their current Route Alignment Consultation still specifies the need for six tracks. They are unlikely to adopt the 4 track option because it does not take into account EWR’s aspirations for the passenger service for Bedford. In fact, without the two additional tracks, EWR would have to severely curtail passenger services to and from Bedford.  It would allow no growth for the service and it would limit the growth of Freight and other services on Midland Mainline.

Given the critical information we now know about the destructive six track requirement, please consider asking your councillor the following questions:

  1. When was your Borough Councillor first aware of the six track option from EWR through Bedford?
  2. If they were aware of the six track requirement before 31st March 2021, can they evidence where requested clarification of the impact of this requirement with Cllr Headley and the Mayor?
  3. Where did they seek to communicate the six track option to the affected residents?
  4. If EWR reject the BBC’s proposal to run the line with out the addition al 2 tracks being built, will your councillor choose to support the demolition of homes?

Ask your councillor, given the destruction required by Route E, will they accept that the impact of this route was not revealed during the 2019 Route consultation, and the severity of the impact means that they should now rescind their support of Route E?

You might also want to ask:

If your councillor is on the Mayor’s Executive Committee, to what extent do they feel compelled to continue to support the Mayor’s rail project?

3. 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.

4. 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.

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

Woods and Copses at Risk 

Clapham Park Wood

Claphampark Wood, Bedford – area information, map, walks and more (ordnancesurvey.co.uk). Grid reference: TL 0472 5309

Clapham Parish Council website Heritage and Character Assessmnet (clapham-pc.gov.uk)

“The Clapham Park Farmhouse (Grade II, NHLE 1114249) survives from the post-medieval times in the village and was originally part of Clapham Park Estate. In the 13th century, Clapham Park was two-fifths of the Manor of Greenacres. It comprised 26 acres of land, 6 acres of meadow, two fishponds and “one ancient park of 32 acres” (Clapham Park, Bedfordshire Archives). 

The Woodland Trust website – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/woods/clapham-park-plantation/. Clapham Park Plantation, Bedfordshire Show on Google Maps. Size: 6.97 ha (17.22 acres). Grid reference: TL049528

“This is not a Woodland Trust wood, but to the best of our knowledge, the details we’ve been given are correct. We provide the facility to search for publicly accessible woods, whoever owns them, to ensure that everyone has access to the benefits of woodland.”

Great Wood Bedford

Great Wood, Bedford – area information, map, walks and more (ordnancesurvey.co.uk)

Grid Reference: TL 0659 5538

Helen’s Wood, Bedford

Helen’s Wood, Bedford – area information, map, walks and more (ordnancesurvey.co.uk)

Grid Reference: TL 0413 5225

Crabtree Spinney, Bedford·         

Crabtree Spinney, Bedford – area information, map, walks and more (ordnancesurvey.co.uk)

Grid Reference: TL 0395 5258

Little Early Grove Bedford

Little Early Grove, Bedford – area information, map, walks and more (ordnancesurvey.co.uk)

5. 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 OptionCost(£bn) Pre ConsultationCost (£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.

6. Omission of Freight from the consultation

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.

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.

7. 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?

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