Bedford Mayor Dave Hodgson’s ‘hand was forced’ in committing Bedford Borough Council financially to deliver the long-awaited Wixams railway station, according to Wixams & Wilstead Councillor Graeme Coombes.
In 2006, the Wixams housing developer, Gallagher agreed to deliver a train station or otherwise contribute a maximum £13.4m towards its costs. Because of the Council’s failure to make progress that sum is now inadequate.
The Council’s Executive now plans to contribute £14m to the overall estimated £27.4m cost of the scheme. This will be funded from borrowing and paid back from the station’s income.
Whilst welcoming the news, Cllr Coombes has hit out at the Mayor for taking 9 years to respond to campaigners’ demands for decisive action.
Cllr Coombes said:
‘I am cautiously optimistic that Wixams residents will at last get the train station we were promised but why has it has taken the Mayor 9 years to make this commitment to fund the project from borrowing that will be repaid to the Council?
‘Contrary to the Mayor’s statement, there has never been an obligation on central government to commit taxpayers’ money to address the failure of Gallagher, a private company, to deliver the station. It is ludicrous to say otherwise. Had the Mayor acted earlier the funding gap would have been very much less.
‘I would also question the timing of this announcement. Just 6 months ago the Mayor was instead prioritising a new station in Sharnbrook as part of his plan for between 2500 - 4500 new homes at Colworth which has now collapsed. His backing of Wixams station is a convenient smokescreen to cover this mess.’