News and Research

Route E is the Worst Choice to Serve Our Community

BFARe Response to EWR Route Alignment Announcement

Press Release – May 26th, 2023

BFARe is a grassroots campaign. Our members and supporters are Bedford Borough Parish and Ward Councillors and thousands of concerned Bedford Borough residents.

BFARe firmly believes East West Rail Route E is the worst route to serve our community. It is not fit for purpose and is a waste of taxpayer money. It is another HS2.

The construction process will destroy our homes, communities and roads. Our countryside will never be the same. We will lose ancient woodlands and wildlife. The destroyed biodiversity will not be recovered in our lifetime.

BFARe will continue to fight Route E. We will continue to publicise how Route E will destroy homes, businesses, quality of life, our countryside, and the environment for all of Bedford Borough.

We demand a better East West Rail solution for Bedford Borough and with our new mayor and council in post, we are hopeful a better, more environmentally sensible and cheaper solution will be found. The BFARE fight for the best EWR route continues.

How did we get here?

Route E will be the largest infrastructure project we will see in our lifetime.

Without full council vote nor constituent engagement, the sitting Bedford Borough Mayor and his Executive were secretive in the selection and promotion of Route E. They knew it would mean home demolitions, worsening of air quality and many years of construction blight. They pursued their agenda without proper constituent engagement. Council’s Promotion of Route E

Credible route alternatives exist and were proposed by the Council’s own consultants (Kilborn Consulting in February 2019) and previously by Network Rail up to 2018. Rather than pause and back-check their route choice, these alternatives were dismissed without proper consideration much to the detriment of all residents. All Kilborn Consultants Communications and Documents

Construction and Environmental Impact

10 years of Bedford construction upheaval is a lifetime for a child entering school. They will know nothing of Bedford except noise, vibration, increased diesel air pollution, earth removal lorries, traffic congestion. They will see the destruction of homes and the removal of their countryside access. Construction Disruption

Once the Route is built, Bedford Borough will suffer irreversible environmental implications including diesel air pollution until 2040, East West Rail commuter traffic congestion into the town centre and increased rail freight operational noise and vibration.

EWR have no definition of Net Zero Carbon – but often boast of a NZC railway. They performed no carbon analysis at the Route E selection stage.

We have a climate emergency but East West Rail and the government continue to ignore it.

Air Pollution

East West Rail’s communication director, Hannah Staunton confirmed that Route E trains will be diesel until 2040.

Bedford Borough Council produced recent data regarding the 2 new air quality monitoring stations on Ampthill Road. The first one is at the junction with Britannia Road near South Wing hospital and St John’s station and the second at Morrisons.

These monitors report on air pollution particulate matters including those from diesel engine use.

The latest WHO average has stated that a safe level is 5 μg/m3 for Particulate Matter 2.5.

As you can see from the graph, Bedford is already breaching the acceptable level of air pollution. particulates which is now attributed to poor quality of life, illness and death.

No Spatial Transport Plan

Bedford does not have a spatial transport plan to allow green commuting and connected public transport. Without a Bedford South park and ride station, new East West Rail commuters will travel into Bedford and further exacerbate the often stationary traffic congestion and unacceptable air pollution levels in our town centre.

East West Rail is being built to support large scale housing across Bedfordshire

There is no business case for East West Rail. A National Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), such as East West Rail, requires a minimum Benefit to Cost Ratio of 1.0. In January 2020, the Route E benefit to cost ratio (BCR) was stated at an extremely low value of 0.64. Without the building of thousands of new greenbelt homes, the East West Rail BCR remains below 1.0. North East Bedfordshire already suffers 3 times the national average for new homebuilding. East West Rail will provide access to new greenbelt housing sites. These are planned or are in the pipeline for areas of Little Barford, Tempsford, Dennybrook and Twinwoods.

East West Rail is being used as a tool for unbridled greenbelt development – and this same homebuilding is necessary to justify East West Rail’s business case.

It is a perfect circular argument and not worthy of taxpayer expense when cheaper, flatter, straighter alternatives, that serve a greater population, exist.

Tax Payer Cost

Route E is the most challenging of all of the five original routes in the 2019 consultation. We expect, much as with HS2, the cost of building Route E will be extensively higher than their original 2019 estimates.

Route E was initially the most expensive of the five options and the 2019 Route Consultation was performed with this cost information being public and on this basis. What was not made known was that a re-evaluation of costs was conducted during the route consultation but the results were not published until AFTER the Route E decision was announced in Jan 2020.

Route E is now assessed as the second cheapest, without explanation. The details of the re-evaluation were finally revealed in the data pack supporting the 2021 Alignment consultation.

The table below shows the changes in route costs that occurred during the 2019 route consultation process.

Given inflation and scarcity of materials, we expect the actual cost of construction to be much higher than the 2019 figures.

BFARe Communications Team

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