Bromham Road Railway Bridge

A project is underway by Network Rail to electrify the London Midland railway line between Bedford and Sheffield. The first stage is between Bedford, Kettering and Corby to allow electric train services to commence by 2020.

The project involves a huge investment in infrastructure and one major part of the work is the rebuilding of 100 bridges along the route to accommodate the overhead electric wires. Work on electrifying the route began in earnest from April 2015 but was paused in the July over government concerns of Network Rail's budget overruns on major projects. The project commenced again in September 2015. In July 2017 it was announced that only the first phase would be completed, that is, as far as Corby.

Within Bedford Borough a number of planning applications have been approved to enable the smaller bridges along the route between Bedford and Wellingborough to be raised. Many have now been completed. However the one CCNB is concerned with and the last to be designed and rebuilt is the Bromham Road railway bridge just north of Bedford railway station. The bridge is on one of the busiest main roads into the town and work to raise it will cause severe traffic disruption to the west of the town and initially work was not expected to be started until the A6/A4280 road link was opened to complete the town’s Western Bypass. This was opened on 25 April 2016. No plans for the upgraded bridge however have been available until 20 April 2018 when Network Rail organised a public consultation event in Bedford's Harpur Suite. The plans showed only a higher like for like replacement of the existing bridge with no cycle infrastructure provided as requested by CCNB and agreed with Bedford Borough Council (see below). The work expected to be carried in late 2019 will involve the road being closed for at least six months. In the meantime work on raising one arch of Ford End Road railway bridge to the south of Bedford station commenced in October 2017 and will be completed by August 2018. This work does not involve any new cycle facilities.

The railway line and the Bromham Road bridge acts as a divide between the east/west parts of the town and the rebuild will be a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to improve the bridge for both cyclists and pedestrians.

In 2001 there was a plan to build a pedestrian/cycle bridge across the line next to the railway station as part of the Allen’s development. This failed at the last moment due to lack of coordination between two parts of the then Government’s Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Borough. This MUST NOT be allowed to happen again.The route shown in the figure through the station car park is a saved cycle route from Bedford Borough's 2002 Local Plan.

The bridge is used by ‘several hundred’ cyclists every day, half of them school children to Biddenham Upper School and commuters to the railway station. Due to its narrowness and incline on each side, crossing the bridge using the carriageway is very dangerous for young and inexperienced cyclists with HGVs and buses trying to squeeze them against the kerb. Hence, more than half currently cycle illegally across on the narrow pavement. The dangerous nature of the bridge has been brought out in a number of questionnaires carried out over the last few years in listing it as one of the top safety concerns of cyclists. There have also been two petitions to the Borough requesting that the route is made more safer.

Even when the bypass is opened it is expected that the number of vehicles using the bridge is likely to continue to increase and cause severe congestion due to the housing developments north of Bromham Road as well as those at Great Denham.

Bromham Road Bridge from east side

CCNB therefore believes that the upgrade of the bridge should allow the opportunity to construct a wider pavement (equal to or wider than 3m) on the north side to create a dual use path together with an underpass of the east side from Spencer Road into the station car park. Bedford Borough Council’s 2002 Local Plan has a saved cycle route from the bridge to the station. This would then give a safe pedestrian/cycleway for cyclists from Biddenham/Bromham, via a spiral ramp down to Spenser Road and the underpass, as well as a direct route from Clapham/Brickhill via Spenser Road to reach the station and the town centre.

Potential Spenser Road Underpass

The route was an aspiration of the old Bedfordshire County Council from the 1990s. In 1999 Sustrans in one of their ’Access to Stations’ paper exercises put forward a toucan crossing in place of the underpass until such time that one could be built.

In an initial brief by Bedford Borough for the North of Bromham Road development it was planned through Section 106 funding to provide a toucan crossing next to Hurst Grove to link in with the then proposed bridge from the Allen’s site.

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