8 months of disruption in store as Network Rail carries out maintenance works in Biggleswade

Works are planned to start next month
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

Vital railway maintenance work close to a Biggleswade housing estate should proceed, but disruption for nearby residents is expected to last for eight months, a meeting heard.

Network Rail wants to improve the railway infrastructure for the track next to Grasmere Road on an urgent basis, using land owned by the town council.

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This area would become a site compound during the works, which are planned to start next month.

It would be used for storage, parking and up to three welfare cabins containing a canteen, office and toilets, according to a report to the town council.

“Network Rail is proposing to pay the local authority £11,900 and would access the land from August 28th for eight months,” said the report. “A draft licence for temporary occupation sets out the conditions of use and reinstatement provisions.

“The town council isn’t obliged to accept the company’s proposal, as it hasn’t referred to any enforcement legislation. But it’s assumed Network Rail would choose a different location if this is refused.”

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Central Bedfordshire Council Independent Biggleswade West councillor Hayley Whitaker told a town council meeting: “Several residents are concerned about the noise and hours of operation. It’s also a flood plain.

“CBC confirmed this doesn’t require planning permission, as it comes under permitted development because of the nature of the scheme. But public protection is interested in the hours of operation because it could cause a nuisance to surrounding properties.

“I’m concerned about site traffic. Although the company says only six vehicles, there’s no idea how many times these travel to and from a location embedded in the middle of a housing estate.”

Town councillor Madeline Russell said: “We need to allow Network Rail to go ahead with this, as it’s essential maintenance. We should ask our officers to negotiate hard. We’d like more than the figure mentioned here.

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“When Network Rail reinstate the ground, we should consider more planting to screen the railway from the housing in Grasmere Road and possibly some picnic benches.

“It hasn’t flooded recently, but has in the past. I understand the concerns of residents. It’s only for a few months and not a permanent issue. We must clarify what equipment is going to be there.”

Town councillor Jo Jones asked if site access could be slightly later, suggesting: “During the school holidays especially, 7am seems early. Beginning later on a Sunday could be part of the talks.”

Town councillor Mark Knight shared concerns around the early start time and said: “I would like to see a commitment to a maximum number of weekend night shifts.

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“The figure coming from Network Rail seems a small amount. My opening position would be double that should be the minimum we accept and then look to reinvest the money in that area once the works are complete.”

And town councillor Sarju Patel agreed the payment is low, adding that a local surveyor could be contacted for advice.

Councillors agreed the land could be used for a monthly amount to be negotiated, with no work before 8am on Sundays.