Ahead of the Budget next Wednesday, as Labour’s 2015 Mayoral Candidate, I am this week calling for a renewed effort to rebuild Bedford’s ageing and decrepit train station.
Plans were drawn up by the station’s owner, Network Rail, in March 2010 but after the last general election were then quickly put on hold.
Concerns have been raised as the East-West rail project, which will connect Bedford to Oxford is scheduled to be completed in 2017, adding more passengers to an already overcrowded station.
Bedford was shunted into the sidings in 2010 and since then, the people of Bedford Borough have been using a station that is well past its sell by date. We have less than three years to sort this problem; real leadership and action is required now.
The new station was originally scheduled to be completed by the end of 2011, but financial cutbacks at Network Rail meant this plan was mothballed.
As a result, the Fletcher 2015 Campaign has called on Bedford Borough Council, Network Rail and First Capital Connect to hold a public meeting to discuss when these plans will be resurrected.
Travellers and commuters have grown increasingly frustrated after seeing their fares rise every year, yet the quality of their journey deteriorate due to the poor facilities at Bedford.
Campaigners for the new station have often highlighted that it would greatly assist the regeneration of Midland Road area, a long neglected part of the town in desperate need of jobs and investment.
In 2012/13, First Capital Connect, the train company operating the Thameslink line from Bedford to London, Gatwick and Brighton, returned £187 million to the government in receipts - The fourth highest in the entire country.
This contrasts starkly with the company’s performance on punctuality where only an average 82% of its peak trains arrived on time up to June 2013.
Since 2010, First Capital Connect has paid over £480m in receipts back to the government. Bedford commuters are paying far more into the system than they are getting out and subsidising other areas. Turning this around will be a major priority for my administration if elected in 2015.