This page is subject to update as more information becomes available: last update 8th July 2020
Network Rail and East West Rail
[UPDATE 8th July] As a result of combined efforts with other parish councils and Bucks Councillors along the route, between Winslow and here we have today been copied into an email from the Chief Executive Office of East West Railway Company Limited Simon Blanchflower CBE.
He has said: The EWR team and I understand the criticality of earning and building the trust of the communities we serve and understand that any disruption caused – including the temporary closures of footpaths to allow safe access for machinery and vegetation clearance - must be justified and minimised. We also recognise that as we enter summer and the situation with Covid-19 unfolds, all of our public spaces, including footpaths ... have taken on a new significance, and maintaining connectivity ... throughout your local area is of interest to us all.
I spoke to the Project Team about the issue last week. I’m glad to say that following earlier feedback from the community they have instigated a review of our approach to footpaths and to the signage used to give detail – they will also be reviewing and enhancing their targeted communications in this respect. While this work must be conducted in a safe and controlled way, the team and I are hopeful of reducing the length of the closures to allow more community access.
We are passionate about developing a railway which best serves people living and working between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge, with communities and customers at its core. We will continue to work closely with local communities and the local authorities to deliver appropriate infrastructure to support local aspirations."
[UPDATE 4th July] We had very positive meeting with Buckinghamshire Council yesterday (3rd July). Following this we had feedback from them before a special parish council meeting held at 4 pm yesterday afternoon.
Before our meeting Buckinghamshire Council had recognised that complaints were justified, saying:
"We do agree that the information that has been provided in advance of the road and Public Rights of Way (PRoW) closures to the public has been inadequate and we consider that the PRoW closures are excessive. We are now working to reduce the scale of the closures."
"We have worked to protect both our road and PRoW network, as well as reduce the impacts of this infrastructure scheme and its construction on residents. Sometimes we have been successful and other times we have had to accept that there is going to be some interruption to the network whilst this significant infrastructure scheme is being constructed. We will continue to work to protect both networks and residents throughout the EWR construction period and we have recently appointed further staff to assist us with this."
"Unfortunately, we have no control over the TWAO closures on the PROW network. These are not like normal TTROs whereby we can input and possibly refuse to make them. We have made it clear to EWR that they need to make more and better efforts at communicating with you and local residents. They seem surprised at the level of complaints they have received and are only now recruiting a Community Liaison Officer for Buckinghamshire."
Weasel Lane - SUSTRANS/National Cycle Route 51
"Buckinghamshire Council has made strenuous efforts throughout the TWAO process to find an alternative but there just wasn’t one. ... Again, a key concern is that EWR have now closed it, but without any advanced warning notices or informative signage on site. This is another issue we have taken up with EWR, that there needs to be improved advanced warning notices and informative signage on site, as we have received complaints to other PROW closures for the same reason."
We believe Buckinghamshire Council are now prepared to work positively to try to correct things moving forward, but they face an uphill struggle because of NR/EWR. Greg Smith MP is well aware of the issues and is discussing with the Department for Transport.
Unfortunately we cannot say the same about NR/EWR, whilst they promised various things when we met on 17th June, since then they have done very little they said they would have done and the issues over confusing and incomplete details about closures continues to be a problem.
At its meeting yesterday (3rd July) the parish council considered the potential of legal action (Judicial Review/Injunction) against Buckinghamshire Council. It decided that:
"A verbal update was given of a very positive meeting held earlier in the day with Buckinghamshire Council as well as a subsequent update from the Service Director on progress made and further efforts still to be made over the next few days.
It is hoped that Buckinghamshire Council will now use all the powers available to it to ensure Network Rail/East West Rail act in more appropriate way towards residents in and around Newton Longville rather than simply saying the Transport Works Act Order allows them to do what they want, when they want. However, so that formal action may if necessary be taken without delay, authority is delegated to the clerk in conjunction the chair and vice-chair to initiate formal judicial review action if there is insufficient progress."
[End of update]
We had a meeting with East West Rail / Network Rail on Wednesday 17th June, whilst the meeting was positive there remains many things to resolve. We were promised various things in the following few days but EWR/NR have been very slow to respond and so far have not provided any justification for any of the closures being in place now. We met with Buckinghamshire Council on both Thursday 18th and Friday 19th June and have had daily discussions with them since then. Many issues are still being considered by Buckinghamshire Council.
Some information of the project is available on the East West Rail website. There is not as much information on their website as we would like. Some useful details are available on the National Rail website about East West Rail and the Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) application. To view the application documents scroll to the bottom of the page and eventually a little window will appear with the documents listed. We have been assured by EWR/NR that no changes were made to these documents as a result of the public inquiry. However they have also told us that the Dept of Transport has yet to "certify" the various documents.
NR.EWR have now sent us copies of individual sheets from the "Deposited Plans" that go with the TWAO, these will all be available on this website soon.
We aim to keep our website updated as we get more information. East West Rail is a large and complicated project that is likely to have a major impact our our village. It has already taken a lot of time over the past few years and no doubt will over the next three or more years for re-opening and construction of the line. You may recall several consultation events were held in Newton Longville, East West Rail were not intending holding consultations in Newton Longville and only did so after pressure from the Parish Council.
As part of project, compounds are being constructed at various locations with two being within Newton Longville. Compound B5 is on land off Whaddon Road just north of the rail bridge and Compound B6 is off Bletchley Road (on part of former Brickworks site which had already been modified as a storage depot). There is due to be a haul road created for access to the line. Compound B5 is entirely within Newton Longville area and so subject to approval by Buckinghamshire Council. Compound B6 is in both Newton Longville and West Bletchley area and so subject to approval by both Buckinghamshire Council and Milton Keynes Council. We are in contact with and working closely with West Bletchley Council on this, as we are about Salden Chase.
NR/EWR have sent us a newsletter about works underway at Bletchley. It appears that printed copies of this are to be distributed in the Bletchley area. We are pressing EWR/NR to produce a similar newsletter for Newton Longville and to circulate printed copies of both to all residents in Newton Longville. This could be as a special issue of the Village Pump. Their newsletter may be downloaded here.
Advance notice of closures
The parish council was not notified in advance of any current Road or Public Rights of Way closures in connection with East West Rail. Although it is not a responsibility of the parish council to issue notices about closures, had we been notified we would have done what we could to alert residents to the closures.
We would have expected to be notified by both Buckinghamshire Council and East West Rail (Network Rail). Sadly, East West Rail (Network Rail) seem to be operating in a very cavalier and high-handed way with little regard for the public.
Buckinghamshire Council appear to acknowledge they do get advance notice of closures, but are telling us they are not under any legal obligation to notify or consult anyone about the closures as they are already authorisd by the Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO). We have made clear that irrespective of any legal obligation we expect Buckinghamshire Council to stand up for our residents and that includes consulting on closures.
On the evening of Friday 12th June, we had an email from the Communications Manager at East West Rail as a result of challenges we had raised. We consider this email as very unsatisfactory and that what is in the email does not match information available online and we have robustly responded to East West Rail about this. As one example, there is no mention of the closure of Footpath 19 which runs from Whaddon Road, goes alongside Hammond Park, under the railway and on to Weasel Lane. Yet it the footpath has already been closed. But the details on one.network do not match what is being said now by East West Rail. The detail in the email from East West Rail as well as what is on one.network is at the end of this article.
Buckinghamshire Council, Milton Keynes Council and Network Rail are all aware of the conflicting information being issued including on one.network. There have been some improvements made but they still have a lot more to do.
Closure of Whaddon Road
We only found out about this on Tuesday 9th June when the signs about diversions and closure appeared. We have been in touch with Buckinghamshire Council but so far have had no satisfactory explanation as to why this closure has been put in place without notice and with what we consider to be wholly inadequate signage and that diversion routes are inappropriate. Fortunately, traffic levels are very much lower at present so the situation is not as bad as it could be.
We do not believe the current closure has been correctly implemented and are waiting for EWR/NR to get back to us on various issues we raised with them during our meeting. We have yet to get any satisfactory explanation from EWR/NR and from pictures sent to us, it seems the main reason Whaddon Road has been fully closed is due to a container "parked" on the road. As of Friday 26th June we are waiting from Buckinghamshire Council to respond on the legality of the closure and signs for both Whaddon Road and National Cycle Route 51 (Weasel Lane). We believe Buckinghamshire Council have legal powers that can and should be used, not necessarily to stop a closure if it is necessary, but to ensure the signs are accurate and legally placed and very clear diversions are in place. For Public Rights of Way that have to be closed, alternative temporary routes should be provided near to the closed route.
[UPDATE 4th July] Shortly before the parish council meeting at 4 pm yesterday (3rd July) Buckinghamshire Council told us "We have been in touch with EWR and they have agreed to implement signage for the Whaddon Road closure as set out in the approved drawings to condition 15. We have set a deadline of 5pm today which they will seek to meet." Sadly it was no surprise that as of 9 pm last night there was still no sign of NR/EWR doing what they promised Buckinghamshire Council they would do.
Closure of Bletchley Road/Newton Road
We were notified by email alert through one.network on Monday 8th June about a proposed complete closure of Bletchley Road/Newton Road at the rail bridge 24 hours a day for 10th August to 29th November - a period of 17 weeks. [UPDATE] We have had an email alert on 29th June changing the details of the closure of Bletchley Road/Newton Road to 28th August to 29th November from 8:30 pm to 6:00 am.
[UPDATE 4th July] We have been told by Buckinghamshire Council that "EWR have only re-iterated that this closure would not occur until the Whaddon Road closure was finished." The parish council have said that closing at 8:30 pm is too early. It should be obvious to NR/EWR that adequate arrangements must be made at all times for pedestrians and cyclists to have easy access between Newton Road to Blechley Road - and that it is totally inappropriate to expect people to use very long unsafe roads as diversions on foot on cycle.
EWR/NR have confirmed the closure will be nighttime only, however so far they have been unable to explain the earlier incorrect information they issued. We have challenged various aspects of the proposed closure and are waiting to hear back from them. [UPDATE 4th July] Despite their promises, we have not heard back from NR/EWR.
Note how the notification starts with "This is not consultation - These works are to go ahead under the powers set out in the TWAO 2020."
We then raised this with our Buckinghamshire Council ward councillors Ben Everitt and Scott Raven. Given the cavalier attitude being shown by East West Rail our councillors immediately then raised with Greg Smith MP our local MP to raise with the Department of Transport. As is explained in more detail below, we now know that the claims by East West Rail and Buckinghamshire Council that East West Rail can do what they like without any consultation is not true. We are challenging with both East West Rail (Network Rail) and Buckinghamshire Council. Over the past few days we have had discussions with planning officers at both Buckinghamshire Council and Milton Keynes Council.
Closure of Buckingham Road, Bletchley
[UPDATE 4th July] On 3rd July further confusion has become clear about when Buckingham Road will and will not be fully closed. As these works are fully within Milton Keynes we have asked MKC to clarify this.
At present it appears that Buckingham Road will be closed 24 hours a day from Sunday 5th July and 7th December. This is under the flyover bridge near to Bletchley Station - so between Water Eaton Road and Brunel Roundabout So for Newton Longville, there is access as far as the Station but no further. The diversion being Buckingham Road, H8 Standing Way, H10 Bletcham Way, V7 Saxon Street (and vice versa).
Closure of Public Rights of Way (Footpaths etc)
Whilst we were expecting some closures, we have had no notifications of any. It has now become clear that the proposed closures include Weasel Lane which forms part of National Cycle Route 51 and that the closure is until April 2023. We do not believe there is properly authorised and have raised this with NR/EWR.
Buckinghamshire Council have told us there is a dedicated page on their website with details of Public Rights of Way (PRoW) closures. It is not as easy to find as it could be, it may be found from the main PRoW webpage from the link Changes to rights of way or go straight to the EWR entry at the bottom of the webpage. However, we have found that not all the information listed is accurate or as detailed as it could be, we have pointed out the errors to Buckinghamshire Council and asked them to correct and improve the information. [UPDATE 4th July] We discussed this with Buckinghamshire Council at our meeting with them yesterday and stressed how important it is to have one easy to use map such as the interactive map already on the Buckinghamshire Council website which includes a useful "Go to current location" feature - but with all the closures also shown. We are hopeful they will make this change in the next few days - it should be easy to do.
Having a say on closures
Parish Councils have no control over temporary closures but should normally be consulted in advance. Normally it is the appropriate Highways Authority that is responsible for deciding whether or not a closure is appropriate (This would Buckinghamshire Council for all of the Buckinghamshire Council are including within Newton Longville, Milton Keynes Council for all of the Milton Keynes Council area, apart from Highways England for any roads they manage such as the M1 and truck roads.) If a closure is in connection with a development, the planning authority may have some say on closures.
However, for closures in connection with East West Rail, a different process has been used. Network Rail Infrastructure Limited applied on 27th July 2018 for a Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) under the Transport and Works Act 1992 this led to a public inquiry by a Planning Inspector from 6th February 2019 to 30th April 2019. The Planning Inspector Martin Whitehead LLB BSc(Hons) CEng MICE issued his 395 page report on 1st October 2019 recommending the proposal be approved with modification and subject to conditions. The Secretary of State for Transport issued a 27 page Decision Letter on 29th January 2020. The decision includes 16 very detailed planning conditions that have to be discharged by the relevant Local Planning Authority, some of these are what are called "pre-commencement" conditions, which have to be discharged before works can start. At present we do not believe this has been done and/or has not been done correctly and are attempting to get explanations from both Buckinghamshire Council and Milton Keynes Council.
In advance of the TWAO For Compounds B5 and B6 a planning application was submitted to AVDC (now Buckinghamshire Council) for permission to build the compound. For Compound B6 the planning application was also submitted to Milton Keynes Council. We are currently trying to get clarification of the interaction between the planning applications for the construction (but not operation) of the compounds and the TWAO. During our discussions both Buckinghamshire Council and EWR/NR confirmed that the planning applications may be disregarded and that all work now underway are under the TWAO.
The actual order is: The Network Rail (East West Rail) (Bicester to Bedford Improvements) Order 2020 SI 2020/113 it was made on 4th February 2020 and came into force on 25th February 2020. Of particular relevance to road and public rights of way closures is Article 14 - which includes a requirement for East West Rail (Network Rail) to see consent from the "Streetworks Authority"
We hope to have more information over the next few days and if necessary, the parish council will have to consider formal legal action.
Email from East West Rail - Friday 12th June
At 17:33 on Friday evening we had an email from the Communication Manager saying:
"The following are upcoming road and footpath closures which may impact residents of Newton Longville.
Newton Longville footpath 18 from 15/06/2020 until 30/06/2023.
Newton Longville restricted by-way 20 from 10/07/2020 until 30/06/2023
These footpath closures are for work to upgrade the railway line which will mean ongoing construction work making it unsafe to allow people to cross the line. Once work has been completed we will look to re-open the footcrossings as soon as it is safe to do so.
Buckingham Road Bletchley - night time closures (9pm-5am) from 18/06/2020 until 25/06/2020
Buckingham Road Full Closure from 05/07/2020 - 30/08/2020
Buckingham Road partial closure from 01/09/2020 - 07/12/2020 - traffic lights
I will send a newsletter with full information on Buckingham Road Closure and diversionary rotes next week
Bletchley Road this is NOT APPROVED AND COULD CHANGE but initial date of 10/08
Newton Road again this is NOT APPROVED AND COULD CHANGE initial date 10/08 as yet, I’m unsure for how long, but as soon as I receive confirmation I’ll let you know.
Waddon Road closed until 27/06/2020"
Details on one.network
The information on one.network - which appears to have been posted by Network Rail rather than Buckinghamshire Council indicates closures of Public Rights of Way as:
- Footpath 18 - closed from Friday 12th June to 30th June 2023
- Footpath 19 - closed from Friday 12th June to 30th June 2023
- Restricted Byway 20 (Weasel Lane) - closed from 10th July to 30th June 2023
It is clear the dates here do not match the dates in the email from East West Rail.
A map of Public Rights of Ways can be viewed at: prow.buckscc.gov.uk