Woburn Sands residents say East West Rail’s bypass plan would 'destroy' the town

A town council says an option to close railway level crossings and replace them with a bypass would “effectively destroy” Woburn Sands.

But the other option is proving almost as unpalatable for Woburn Sands Town Council as it would mean level crossings being closed 10 times every hour as services increase on the East West Rail (EWR) line.

EWR is currently consulting with councils and the public on the options between Bletchley and Bedford, and on to Cambridge. The consultation is coming to an end next Wednesday (June 9).

So-called Option 1 suggests closing the crossing and building a bypass from Newport Road approximately opposite Cross End Road, and then running south to reach the Bow Brickhill Road.

Traffic would then enter Woburn Sands either via the Bow Brickhill Road or via an extension running through the allotments and Edgewick Farm into Hardwick Road.

The town council, in its response to East West Rail says: “This option is totally unacceptable to Woburn Sands and would effectively destroy the town.”

And for option 2, closing the crossings for up to 40 minutes every hour, they say it is “also unattractive.” But they have called for a bridge or underpass to be explored as “either of these would enable a free flow of both traffic and trains in the long term.”

Milton Keynes borough councillor David Hopkins (Cons) represents Woburn Sands as part of the Danesborough & Walton ward.

He’s a supporter of the Marston Vale line, and of opening new East West Rail services from Oxford to Cambridge. But like the town council he wants to see the company prove its business case.

“The last thing I would want to see is the line becoming a white elephant,” he said.

Cllr Hopkins yesterday (Tuesday) took the opportunity to quiz Milton Keynes Council’s ruling Lab Lib Dem “Progressive Alliance” cabinet.

“Would it be the council’s policy to withdraw its support if it became clear that the East West Rail project was not going to be a fully electrified project?,” he said.

Council leader Cllr Pete Marland (Lab, Wolverton) said: “I don’t think necessarily withdrawing support if it’s not electrified is likely, not least because even a diesel train is likely to take car journeys off the road.”

MK Council is finalising its response to EWR in advance of a decision next Tuesday (June 9).

Cllr Marland said MKC would object to the closure of the level crossing in central Woburn Sands. But MKC is not as opposed to the idea of a bypass.

Cllr Marland said: “Whilst we are not implaccably opposed to a bypass that might take traffic off Newport Road, the current route of the bypass would cause more traffic problems that it would ease.”

Cllr Jennifer Wilson-Marklew (Lab, Stony Stratford) is the Progressive Alliance’s cabinet member for climate change.

She is finalising MKC’s formal response but she has already made the council’s position clear that it “very strongly supports” the EWR. But it wants plans tweaked and to “fully electrify” the line.