I recently must start by apologising for the very long delay in replying to your email. As you noted, I did receive a large amount of correspondence from constituents.
Unfortunately I had mislaid your email and so did not respond earlier as I was able to do with other constituents.
Perhaps I can update you on what actions I have taken as your MP. I have been facilitating meetings for local residents and Parish Councillors and over the past few weeks.
I arranged for questions to be put to a representative from Bedford Borough Council, from East West Rail and then with the Rail Minister directly.
There have been similar grassroots efforts taking place in Cambridgeshire who are investigating the option of a judicial review.
The crux of concerns revolve around whether the process was conducted in a transparent way and with properly prepared submissions. Ultimately, the decision by the Department of Transport relied heavily on these inputs.
Some of the questions on process that have been raised so far include:
What were the terms of reference for engineering advisors, what impact might this have had on their ability to review all options and did this affect the outcome from the consultation? The concern here is that if the engineering advisors were only permitted to review a selection of routes and not all routes, their findings may not have constituted a full review.
This issue relates primarily to the submission process at Bedford Borough Council.
What caused the ranking of route options to change during the consultation process and what, if any. consideration was made to re-start the consultation based on these new assessments? The concern here is that a significant change in appraisal was driven by factors that were not transparent from the available documentation to consultees. This issue relates primarily to the consultation process by East West Rail
Were the cost estimates for the routes done properly and fully for this stage of decision making? The concern here is that actual costs may have been presented in order to make a particular route option look more attractive on a cost-benefit basis rather than from a full appraisal. This issue relates to both the submission process at Bedford Borough Council and the consultation process at East West Rail Route
|Route Option||Pre Consultation Cost (£bn)||Post Consultation Cost (£bn)||% increase|
|A||£2.0 bn||£3.6 bn||80%|
|B||£2.6 bn||£3.9 bn||50%|
|C||£2.5 bn||£4.3 bn||72%|
|D||£2.6 bn||£4.0 bn||54%|
|E||£3.4 bn||£3.7 bn||9%|
How was the economic value to Bedford assessed and was the value given undue weight subsequently?
The concern here is that the economic modelling was conducted to achieve a target (i.e. high) number, rather than being an independent assessment, and that subsequently an undue weight was placed on this in the final decision process.
This concern relates to both the process at Bedford Borough Council and at the Department of Transport.
Did the submission by Bedford Borough Council comply with established Council policies on the environment, local plan, plans of Wixams station etc.
The concerns here are that the submission did not pay due regard to established Council policies that should have shaped the document. This issue relates primarily to the process at Bedford Borough CouncilI had hoped that East West Rail might have engaged more positively with re-consideration of its choice of Route E and similarly Borough Council. It is disappointing to see that in this next stage consultation, there are multiple options still being considered in Cambridgeshire but just a small range of possibilities for Bedfordshire.
I shall be continuing to facilitate your local Parish Council and others in helping navigate this process that has brought so much confusion and irritation to those most affected.
Richard Fuller MP
Member of Parliament for North East Bedfordshire