EAST WEST RAIL – PUBLIC CONSULTATION
East West Rail (EWR) is carrying out non-statutory consultation about its proposals for the development of the railway that will improve connections for people living and working between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge.
The project is being delivered in stages. Trains already run between Oxford and Bicester and EWR aims to have trains running the full length of the line by the end of the decade.
EWR wants to hear from you on two particular key themes:
• Customer experience and railway operations
• Infrastructure proposals, such as route alignments, stations, and level crossings
Walton Community Council View:
We are in favour of Concept 2 (relocation of stations so that EWR serves Bletchley, Woburn Sands, Ridgmont, Lidlington, Stewartby and Bedford). This will provide high speed trains with fewer stops which is the overall aim of a nationally strategic rail project such as EWR.
With such a project coming through our area, we emphasise that noise mitigation is vital. This is a mature area that has the railway immediately adjacent to people’s gardens. As more, and faster rail, would be a new introduction to our area, minimising noise is important – especially if increased freight movements are proposed for commuting ‘off hours’ or in the night and the line remains using diesel or hybrid trains.
We acknowledge the project will mean the relocation of Woburn Sands station c. 700m to the West and the closure of Bow Brickhill station. However, the move of WS station will serve our area well, provide better possibilities for station facilities, serve SE:MK as it develops and give better rail crossing, without a level crossing.
MK Council has publicly stated they will not accept the closure of Fenny Stratford station, and while this is outside of our area, if this is followed through, we feel leaving local ‘stopping services’ on the line would be a detriment to the whole project. Stats from the Office of the Rail Regulator show that Fenny Stratford station was used by around 72 people per day in 2020 while Bow Brickhill in our area was used by 113 per day. So, we are perplexed why MK Council would support slowing down the line, and keeping a minor station with so few users open.
On the edge of our area, with the Caldecotte A5 rail bridge, we have no particular comment to make, but if a widening or a new bridge is made, it would be good to make it a ‘landmark’ bridge rather than a plain concrete box.
The V10 level crossing / Bow Brickhill station
Concept 2 would see this station close. But with a relocated and improved Woburn Sands station, our area would be better served. We are in support of EWR (and Network Rail’s) goal of closing level crossings to improve safety.
With that in mind, we also cannot stress enough how strategically vital the V10 crossing point is for the South of Milton Keynes and our area.
From the options provided on page 145 of the consultation document, we are open minded to either option 3 or 4 – a limited crossing for vehicles, with either trains under or over. The important point here is maintaining a vehicular crossing point for the V10.
We disagree with Milton Keynes Council that closing the V10 to traffic (but installing a pedestrian crossing) and diverting traffic along a V11 extension would suffice. If the V10 traffic crossing were to close the impacts would be:
• Traffic to/from Caldecotte Business Park would not be able to travel south down the V10 to the roundabout with the A5. All traffic in rush hour would have to go north on the V10, west on the H10 and join the A5 at Caldecotte Roundabout. Already there are long and large rush hour jams at these junctions and closing the V10 would compound the issue.
• Ditto for industrial traffic coming from Tilbrook employment area and the Red Bull Campus.
• Traffic from the new industrial/employment zone being constructed today south of the existing level crossing (“Caldecotte Site C”) would not be able to travel north along the V10. While some would say that traffic would be encouraged to head south to the A5 roundabout then change direction to northbound on the A5, in reality (and assisted by ‘shortest route’ planning on satnavs), traffic would go marginally eastward to any V11 extension and north on the V11, ramming excess traffic on to the V11 – which passes Walton High School and slightly further north, the strategically important and traffic sensitive junctions at Kingston (retail and shopping) plus Brinklow industrial zone, which itself is a major contributor to heavy/lorry traffic. This option would bring pressure onto a route which is already stressed and of concern to MK Council.
• The future MRT project in Milton Keynes has the V10 as one of its main arterial routes for passengers into the city.
The nature of the EWR company gives it the ability to compulsorily acquire land to make this nationally important project happen. As EWR have already stated, it’s a 50 to 100 year project and therefore, acquiring land to put in a solution here is critical. This traffic solution could easily extend to having a pedestrian path with it, giving modal options and encourage EWR to find land to make it happen.
Proposed V11 Extension
As we are in favour of keeping the V10 open, it makes logistical sense to also create a V11 extension through the reserved grid road corridor that exists today, and bridge the railway to provide connectivity into the future SE:MK development and south, out of Milton Keynes.
We agree with MK Council’s position on the Browns Wood foot crossing, that if a V11 extension is built, this would incorporate pedestrian/cycle provision and there is no need to keep Browns Wood crossing open.
This would have the added advantage of not impacting land owned by Walton Community Council and our Holst Crescent allotment site.
The Pony pedestrian/bridleway crossing is important – the bridleway runs right through the east side of Milton Keynes and for many kilometres south of MK. We concur with MK Council’s position of retaining this crossing and making it an underpass to ensure horses are not spooked by trains while using a bridge.
We also acknowledge that the existing Woodley’s Farm crossing is a private crossing and will be closed with no other solutions. We have no issue with that decision.
Woburn Sands station
While this sits outside of our area, we broadly support the relocation of the station towards our area, which will better serve our residents, the future SE:MK development and later, MRT.
The building of a new crossing (so called “Woodley’s Road” or V12) to run up the east side of the SE:MK development is most welcome here and will provide a wide variety of options for all kinds of traffic and pedestrians to use, ensuring any stresses are smoothed across the 3 crossings (V10, V11 extension and “V12”).
We would encourage EWR to further engage with MK Council to explore more around options for the existing Woburn Sands level crossing.
You can learn more about the proposals and respond to the consultation at https://eastwestrail.co.uk/consultation
The deadline for comment is 9 June 2021.