This morning representatives from Network Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway, Central Bedfordshire Council, Biggleswade Town Council, Bedfordshire Rail Access Network and Richard Fuller MP met to discuss the latest progress on step-free access at Biggleswade station. We also discussed the progress of the Transport Hub, which when completed will provide a seamless link between bus and rail services, as well as the provision of much needed toilet facilities at the station.
Just prior to the meeting there was a short opening ceremony for the new cycle parking facilities at the station. There are facilities to store around 128 bikes and there is full CCTV coverage of the area.
After the opening ceremony, we then moved to the Town Hall offices to discuss the main business of the day which was step-free access at the station, as well as receiving an update on the transport hub.
Network Rail said they were confident that the scheme would remain affordable, although there are external pressures of soaring steel prices and increased labour costs. There are still a number of hoops to jump through, including a review of where potential savings may be made. Network Rail has to go through an internal Investment Authority application for construction as well as a station change review with GTR. However, if all goes well then the contract should be signed by July 2022 and work will begin on site in October 2022.
The current target for the lifts to enter into service at Biggleswade station is June 2023.
The Bedfordshire Rail Access Network team does have some concerns that there may be some last-minute design changes through what is termed as ‘value engineering’ – basically cost-cutting. This potentially carries the risk of reducing the ease of accessibility of the station, even if the changes meet current guidance. We asked that we are notified of ANY changes to the design, which they have agreed to do.
The bus interchange is on course to be completed and in use by April 2023.
A Traffic Regulation Order relating to the changes needed as a result of the bus interchange is going before the relevant council committee on the 24th May 2022. This will include some parking changes, as well as the construction of a new zebra crossing on Station Road.
Funding has been agreed for toilets to be located on the site of the old bike rack area (to the right of the taxi office as you look at the station). This will include an accessible toilet, as well as a male and female toilet. The date for completion of this project has yet to be confirmed, but is due to be cfinished no later than the end of this financial year, April 2023.
Unfortunately, especially as it will soon become law, there was no funding available for a ‘changing places’ facility. There were also discussions about the provision of toilets on the platforms. However, as the problem is believed to be a damaged pipe underneath the rail tracks we were advised that this would be a considerable expense to remedy.
Overall, it was good to hear that everything is on track and no dates have slipped. However, we will continue to keep a close eye on all the various projects around the station until completion
The cycle and bus hubs are very welcome additions to what will become a vital transport interchange for Biggleswade and the surrounding areas. However, to get people out of their cars and onto their bikes, safe cycle routes to the station both within Biggleswade and between surrounding villages will need to be created. There is little sign yet that there is any ambition to create these dedicated cycle routes, where cyclists are separated from road traffic, in our area. Further, bus services across the area remain patchy, with few services running in the evenings and at weekends. The proposed ‘Enhanced Partnership’ between Central Bedfordshire Council and bus companies must address these gaps and provide a reliable service to encourage us to ditch the car.
This is just a short update from the meeting. If you have any questions please feel free to email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/bedsrailaccessnow
9th May 2022