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East of England Liberal Democrats

Mayor Slams Government's Major Rail Downgrade for Bedford

June 13, 2018 6:16 PM
Originally published by Dave Hodgson - Mayor of Bedford Borough

Intercity and Commuter Trains at Bedford StationMayor Dave Hodgson has slammed the Government following its decision to almost entirely remove Bedford from the intercity rail network under the next East Midlands Trains Franchise. The specification within the 'Invitation to Tender' for bidders for the franchise, which will commence in August 2019, makes Bedford a stop on a 'commuter-style' service between Corby and London.

Other than four trains to Leicester before 10am on weekdays, and none in return, travellers to and from the north will have to change at Kettering, which will have just one intercity train per hour. Until the cuts for Bedford under the new timetables introduced last month in shambolic circumstances, Bedford was served by two fast intercity trains per hour through most of the day.

The news is another kick in the teeth for rail users contending with the government's removal of peak intercity trains from Bedford and more than two years of peak-time rail replacement buses between Wellingborough and Bedford.

Mayor Dave has also attacked the government for 'simply ignoring' the large numbers of local people who made an overwhelming case in support of Bedford through the consultation on the next franchise. The East Midlands rail franchise serves well over 100 stations across the country, from London to Sheffield to Liverpool, yet documents published alongside the Invitation to Tender reveal that a massive 39% of respondents to the consultation were from Bedford.

At the consultation meeting in Bedford last year on the government's proposals for the franchise, government officials said the meeting turnout in Bedford was the biggest they had ever seen.

Commenting, Mayor Dave Hodgson said: "The Government has chosen to downgrade Bedford as a rail destination, removing us almost entirely from the intercity rail network. In doing so, the government has simply ignored local people who responded in huge numbers and made an overwhelming case for Bedford to retain intercity trains.'

"The government is insisting on massive additional housebuilding targets for Bedford Borough, while choosing to downgrade our existing infrastructure, let alone improve and extend it. It's scandalous."

The East Midlands rail franchise Invitation to Tender and associated documents have been published by the government and are available to view here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/east-midlands-franchise-2018-invitation-to-tender