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The secret East West Rail Economic Growth Board deciding your future

The National Audit Office report on EWR revealed the existence of an HM Treasury officer-led EWR economic growth board. But the public is not allowed to see who is on the board nor are we allowed to see their meeting minutes. Secrecy rarely leads to good decisions, and this unaccountable board and its meetings are deciding the fate of our region.

A recent HM Treasury Freedom of Information request raised by Cambridge Approaches has confirmed that the EWR Economic Growth Board will operate in secrecy. They justified the secrecy stating that being open and honest about the EWR Project justification would “prevent officials from conducting rigorous and candid assessments of the options available to them, and that disclosure would risk closing off discussions and the development of better options now and in the future.”

Candid robust discussions should be welcomed in any democracy, so why hide them?

Spokesman for BFARe Mike Barlow comments “EWR boast of transparency and working with local communities which we know is just PR posturing. Then they hold meetings in secret like this without openness or accountability. They hide environmental evidence and cost information stating ‘not in the public interest’. This is our environment. This is taxpayers’ money. Have they learned nothing from HS2, Horizon and other scandals based on civil service and government opacity?”

The shocking fact is that we are meant to trust a secret board with £ 8 billion of taxpayer money to justify the building of East West Rail.

William Harrold of Cambridge Approaches said “There has already been interest and raised eyebrows from many thousands of people about this FOI refusal on social media. Our democracy works best where there is consensus about how to spend public money. Where projects are controversial like EWR, where there is every indication that a project is either a complete waste of public money or involves urbanisation on a huge scale; then transparency is even more important. Instead, we have a group of entitled, un-elected and nameless officials advancing their agenda to advise one minister after another. This is Britain in 2024.”

It is well documented that the costs of building East West Rail far outweigh any claimed benefits to be achieved.

The NAO on East West Rail also stated “Improved communication and joint working between central government and local bodies are needed to overcome barriers to progress and achieve the goals of the project over the long term.” How are we to know whether the joint-working is being achieved if we do not know who is representing local interests on this board? And the decisions this board is taking on our behalf?

Julia Virdee from Protect Poets said “This is another example of the Government’s blatant disregard for the general public, taxpayers who are not only funding this project, but also bearing the cost in terms of having their lives turned upside down. What exactly are they trying to hide? They are clearly not listening to the recommendations of the NAO report. Ministers refuse to meet residents, fail to reply to concerns and have gone so far as to say they will not look again at the project if the majority of Consultation responses are opposed (Huw Merriman Westminster Hall Debate June 2023). We didn’t think they could continue to shock us with their underhanded tactics and disregard for residents but they have hit a new low.”

We are reminded of another “strategically important” railway. The HS2 overspend of public money is a portend of British infrastructure project doom. Those impacted by poor East West Rail project management and route choice are very wise to this fact.

For further information

BFARe Press Office

Mike Barlow (BFARe)

Rachel Duke (BFARe) press@bfare.org.uk

BFARe is a Limited company. Company number: 13332104, Reg Address: Union House, 111 New Union Street, Coventry, West Midlands, CV1 2NT, United Kingdom

Cambridge Approaches Press Office

William Harrold (CA) 07595 951664

Phillip Phan (CA) 07875 756831

Email: info@cambridgeapproaches.org

Cambridge Approaches Limited is a not for profit company registered in England and Wales. Company Number:  13165368.

Protect Poets Press Office

Julia Virdee (PP) email: protectpoets@gmail.com