Sandy railway station: Central Beds Council brief to consultants ‘implied possible out-of-town move’

PUBLISHED: 14:52 03 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:21 03 August 2017

Sandy railway station. Picture: Danny Loo

Sandy railway station. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

Central Bedfordshire Council issued a brief to consultants appearing to imply that Sandy railway station might close – despite denying it wants that to happen.

Sandy railway station. Picture: Danny Loo Sandy railway station. Picture: Danny Loo

The council has firmly denied that a recent study’s reference to a hypothetical out-of-town Sandy stop near Tempsford on the Cambridge-to-Oxford East West Rail route, “replacing the existing station”, implies that it wants to station to close.

But the council’s own brief to the consultants – issued in December, and seen by the Comet yesterday – also seems to propose a possible relocation of Sandy station in a scenario where the East West Rail link goes north of the town.

Referring to whether the link will go to the north or south of Sandy, the document says: “The southern route is more straightforward in engineering terms but would provide little potential for growth while a northern route would be more expensive to build but would generate major development potential around new interchange stations at Sandy (resited) and (with the Midland Main Line) at Wixams to the south of Bedford.”

It adds: “The most direct route, taking into account topography, would see a route passing close to Sandy and Central Beds Council’s preferred option would be to see the route pass to the north of Sandy with a new station located close to the existing town.

“A new station should serve the EWR line and have passenger connections to the East Coast Main Line.”

Those criticising the report have included independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny, who said it was intended to help justify a housing surge.

After seeing the council’s original brief, he told the Comet yesterday: “Central Beds clearly implied to the consultants that it expected Sandy station to be moved.

“To suggest a major station serving tens of thousands of people should be relocated merely to allow them to build more new houses would hardly seem to benefit the public it apparently represents.”

The report – prepared by GL Hearn, Capita and LDA Design at a cost to taxpayers of £41,230 – describes itself as exploring scenarios “based on an interchange station (replacing the existing station) to the north of Sandy, facilitating housing growth of potentially 7,000, 15,000 or 20,000 homes in a new settlement.”

It estimates that house prices there would rise by up to 20 per cent if an East West Rail station were built there, adding: “Economic benefits associated with options for the new settlement and station north of Sandy range from £154m to £224m.”

Central Beds’ Local Plan calls for a standalone settlement in the Tempsford area.

In a letter to the Comet last week, Councillor Nigel Young insisted that Central Bedfordshire Council wanted Sandy station to remain open, possibly alongside a new station at Tempsford.

The executive member for regeneration said the council had commissioned the report to see if an East West Rail line north of Sandy would help increase land values enough to justify helping to pay for it.

“Our draft Local Plan identifies the council’s preferred options for the East West Rail line, with stations at both Wixams and north of Sandy at Tempsford as part of the growth location options we are considering,” he said.

“At no time has the council suggested that the existing station at Sandy would close. In fact, we would robustly support the retention of the existing station in addition to a new station at Tempsford.”

He added: “This is a theoretical study and is just one piece of evidence among many other studies that have informed our draft Local Plan, which is currently out to public consultation.

“It was not the purpose or the role of the study to determine if the existing station at Sandy should remain open or close.

“Any decision about train stations, either existing or new, rests with Network Rail and is therefore beyond the council’s control.”

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