Mayor of Bedford Borough Tom Wootton has said he is ‘deeply disappointed’ after a meeting with leading figures behind East West Rail (EWR).

EWR would put Bedford at the heart at a rail route serving Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge and Bedford Borough Council has released two reports offering eight possible routes.

Subsequently, a summit held at Borough Hall, brought together the Mayor, senior officers and councillors, and leaders of the East West Rail Company.

But following the meeting Mayor Tom said: “We’ve shown that there is a real need to look again and decide if the current northern route really is the best one for East West Rail, and for the people of Bedford Borough. Unfortunately, East West Rail made it clear that they are still not going to do that.

“When I asked, they did agree that they would formally respond to our reports, but they seem determined to move ahead with the current route.

“This scheme has the potential to bring enormous benefits to Bedford Borough – but that only makes it more important to get it right. And knocking down people’s homes is not a necessity to make this happen.”

The scheme is expected to go out for an eight-week statutory public consultation this Summer, followed by a second in 2025.

Mayor Tom added: “This is an exceptionally exciting time for Bedford, and for the entire borough, and East West Rail could be a key part of that. But it’s crucial that we get the maximum benefit from these developments, and not just settle for what we’re being given.

“I will be asking for another meeting with Huw Merriman, the Minister for Rail, who is the man behind the plans. This is something that I know so many of our residents feel strongly about, and I will fight all the way to the top.”

A spokesman for East West Rail said: “EWR Company undertook extensive work to assess alternative alignments including those detailed in the report commissioned by the Mayor of Bedford in advance of setting out our preferred route last May.

“We explained then why we are confident this route is the best option for Bedford. It will deliver fast and frequent services which will help attract more businesses, jobs and investment into the town centre as well as making it easier for patients, staff and visitors get to the hospital – a service people can rely on day by day.

“We do though remain fully open to receiving new information and are actively considering the council’s report as part of our ongoing design work. We will continue to meet regularly with key stakeholders including the mayor who met our chief executive to discuss the reports last month.

“All stakeholders and the local community will also be able to have their say on the project and our plans when we hold our statutory consultation in the first half of this year.”

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