8-month railway project in Biggleswade could require weekend night-time work

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But Network Rail is making some concessions after town councillors called for a tough stance in negotiations

Vital railway maintenance work by a Biggleswade housing estate could involve night-time work two weekends a month, a town council report has revealed.

Network Rail wants to improve railway infrastructure on the track next to Grasmere Road, with the project forecast to last eight months.

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But the company is making some concessions after town councillors called on officers to adopt a tough stance while negotiating the conditions for the scheme to proceed.

Network Rail Site Plan. PIC: Biggleswade Town Council agendaNetwork Rail Site Plan. PIC: Biggleswade Town Council agenda
Network Rail Site Plan. PIC: Biggleswade Town Council agenda

Although the town council “isn’t obliged to accept the company’s proposal, it’s assumed Network Rail would choose a different location”, if its request is refused, a report to the local authority explained last month (July).

Central Bedfordshire Council Independent Biggleswade West councillor Hayley Whitaker warned the council that several residents are concerned about the noise and hours of operation.

The issue was discussed in private session at a town council meeting last week. But a public report was prepared for councillors, updating the correspondence between Network Rail and the local authority, which owns the land.

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A request has been made to establish when the town council first became aware that the essential maintenance upgrade was needed, the local democracy reporting service understands.

The project deadline is today (Thursday) as a start of work is required “on an urgent basis”, councillors were told previously.

They asked officers to contact the company seeking an increased rent, along with other amendments to the licence.

Among the improvements mentioned in the report are:

  • the licence fee will be increased from £350 to £400 per week, which would mean about £13,600 overall from a previous offer of £11,900;
  • an overrun clause, agreed by Network Rail, covers an increased weekly rate from £400 to £450, if a project extension is necessary;
  • and no work can start before 8am on a Sunday, rather than 7am.

The report added: “Network Rail hasn’t agreed to provide the specific dates when weekend night-time working will be required, although it’s suggested this could be potentially two weekends each month.

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“The company sends out notification to all local residents at least two weeks before any such activity.

“It indicated if no agreement is reached with the town council over the use of the land at Grasmere Road, the railway works would still take place and nearby residents would face some disturbance potentially.”

This area would become a site compound during the works, and be used for storage, parking and up to three welfare cabins containing a canteen, office and toilets.

Network Rail was due to access the land earlier this week, ahead of the planned works. The draft licence with the local authority for temporary occupation sets out the conditions of use and reinstatement provisions.

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CBC confirmed this “doesn’t require planning permission, as it comes under permitted development”, said councillor Whitaker last month.

“But public protection is interested in the hours of operation to restrict nuisance to surrounding properties.”

Councillors agreed a recommendation to accept the increased licence payment offer and noted it would be better for the community if the works were completed sooner.