Working for the future of Bedford & Kempston

Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017. 

Transport

Richard Fuller today welcomed the announcement by Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport to enable fast track completion of the rail link from Oxford to Cambridge via Bedford and Milton Keynes.

In his statement to the House of Commons, Mr Grayling said, “I want to bring new skills into the challenge of upgrading our railways. I will begin by looking at the reopening of the link from Oxford to Cambridge, to support a range of opportunities including housing, science, technology and innovation. I am going to establish East West Rail as a new and separate organisation, to accelerate the permissions needed to reopen the route, and to secure private sector involvement to design, build and operate the route as an integrated organisation. This East West Rail organisation will be established early in the New Year and chaired by the former Chief Executive of Chiltern Rail, Rob Brighouse.”

Responding to the announcement, Richard said, “Completing this important rail link, especially from Bedford to Cambridge, was at serious risk of getting stuck in an over-committed Network Rail, leading to delays and potentially cancellation if government changed investment priorities in the future. I will continue to press the Secretary of State to ensure that his plans will deliver this rail line ahead of time, on budget and to the highest safety standards.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond in his Autumn Statement this week allocated £100m to accelerate the building of the Western Section of the East West Rail Project, the Bedford–Oxford line, and a further £10m was allocated to continue development work to identify a preferred route for the line to extend east of Bedford, via Sandy, to Cambridge. He also gave a commitment to deliver the new dualled Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, via Bedford.

After listening to the announcement in the House of Commons, Richard said: “I am delighted that the Government is investing in new road and rail links for Bedford. This investment will unlock economic growth in and around our town by further improving connectivity and our attractiveness for businesses to invest. This will bring more, local jobs making Bedford an even better place to live and work.”

In the Autumn Statement, Mr Hammond said: “This project can be more than just a transport link. It can become a transformational tech-corridor, drawing on the world-class research strengths of our two best-known universities.”

Richard has welcomed an improved compensation scheme for passengers if their train is more than 15 minutes late.

This week, the Government announced that ‘Delay Repay 15’ will be introduced within months on Govia Thameslink services, including Southern services, before extending to all other lines. Passengers will soon be able to claim compensation for delays of over 15 minutes rather than the current threshold of 30 minutes.

In 2013, Richard raised the idea of making train operating companies compensate passengers for delays of 15 minutes or more in Parliament with the then Transport Secretary. He said: “I am glad the Government has listened. This is good news for rail passengers and provides a strong incentive for train operators to deliver a reliable service.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We recognise that, above all else, passengers want a reliable train service, but when things do go wrong it is vital that they are compensated fairly. ‘Delay Repay 15’ is a major improvement for passengers and we are working with train companies to make it as easy as possible for passengers to claim their rightful compensation.”

Currently, passengers are entitled to 50% of their fare if their train is delayed by 30-59 minutes, 100% if it is delayed by over an hour, and 100% of the total cost if it is delayed for over two hours. These thresholds will stay in place but passengers will now also be able to claim 25% of the cost of the single fare for delays of between 15 and 29 minutes.

Greg Clark MP, Growth Minister, with Richard Fuller MP and Jas Parmar

Greg Clark MP, Growth Minister, with Richard Fuller MP and Jas Parmar

The Government’s Minister for Growth, Greg Clark MP was in Bedford on Friday (9th January) with local MP, Richard Fuller and Conservative Mayoral Candidate, Jas Parmar to discuss Bedford’s economic future.

The Minister was in the region to sign officially the Local Growth Deal that gave Bedford the final piece of funding for the Western bypass.

Richard and Jas took the Minister to the sites of some of the ambitious projects they have proposed to drive Bedford and Kempston’s economic growth, including a new road bridge over the River Great Ouse at Batt’s Ford.

Richard commented, “I have been delighted over recent months that the Government has committed funding to several vitally important infrastructure projects in and around Bedford, including the Bedford-Oxford railway, a flyover for the Black Cat junction of the A1 and the completion of the western bypass.”

“Having the Growth Minister here in Bedford gave us a great opportunity to show him the plans we have for other projects that will bring about new jobs and economic prosperity for Bedford and Kempston.”

Jas added, “A new road bridge in Bedford has been talked about for decades and would make a real difference to traffic in Bedford. It was great to have the opportunity to tell the Minister more about the projects that matter to Bedford Borough.”

Bedfordshire MPs, Richard Fuller and Nadine Dorries questioned bosses from Govia Thameslink and Network Rail about the recent poor train service provided on the Bedford-Brighton line.

The MPs raised concerns from their constituents who have suffered with a high number of train delays and cancellations since Govia took over the franchise in September.

Govia apologised for the poor performance which they put down to severe driver shortages and confirmed that they were taking action to improve things.

Bedford and Kempston MP, Richard Fuller said,

“There have been unacceptable levels of disruption and cancellations on the Thameslink line in recent weeks. Govia say they have driver shortages, which they are addressing, and that improvements will come but will take time. I have my doubts and Nadine and I have asked for regular updates to monitor progress.”

A1/A421 Black Cat roundabout

Road investment to create expressway linking Bedford to Cambridge and Milton Keynes welcomed by Bedford MP.

Significant improvements to the A428, including a full solution to the Black Cat roundabout issue, announced by the Government as part of its first ever five year investment strategy for the nation’s roads has been welcomed by local MP, Richard Fuller.

The A428 is one of 84 named schemes within the strategy. The proposal is to dual the remaining single carriageway section between Caxton Gibbet west of Cambridge and the M1 at Milton Keynes, making Bedford the centre of an East-West Expressway. The work will also include a flyover junction at the A1 Black Cat roundabout.

Government estimates the total cost of the scheme at between £250m – £500m and construction will start within the plan’s five year period.

Richard Fuller MP for Bedford, commented,

“The creation of this road Expressway linking Bedford with Cambridge and Milton Keynes will bring long term benefits to our local economy and the promise of more local jobs. A flyover at the Black Cat will also make a massive difference to local residents. We must now press ahead for commitments to build the final stage in the complimentary East-West rail link from Bedford to Cambridge.”

More information about the announcement is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-roads-investment-in-the-east-of-england 

Richard Fuller, Eric Pickles and Jas Parmar discuss Bedford's traffic enforcement issues

Richard Fuller, Eric Pickles and Jas Parmar discuss Bedford’s traffic enforcement issues

In June, Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles, visited Bedford to meet local MP, Richard Fuller and Conservative Mayoral Candidate, Jas Parmar.

Richard described the visit in his column in the Times and Citizen:

“Mr Pickles is a big man so I felt bad giving him a walking tour around town on a hot day in Bedford last week. It was for a good cause, though. Trying to knock some sense in to the use of the mobile CCTV vans so beloved by our Liberal Democrat-controlled Council.

“I am all in favour of the vans being used as they were first intended to be used: to stop cars being parked dangerously outside schools. In some cases, this rush to pick up children causes mayhem and can be dangerous.

“Unfortunately, though, the CCTV vans have been increasingly used as a means to raise money for the Council, with people being given tickets for the most minor and least dangerous infractions.

“On his walkabout, Eric met with shop keepers and local business people and listened to their concerns about the impact of these vans on their customers and on their business.

“Eric listened and now he has acted. Just a few days after his first-hand experience in Bedford, Eric had had enough and he announced an end to overzealous enforcement by CCTV vans. From this Autumn they will be restricted to enforcing parking rules on bus lanes and outside schools.

“It’s great to see this national politician listening and then acting to promote common sense.”

Sue Rowen from Guide Dogs UK with guide dog, Layla, Richard Fuller MP, Barbara Norton and guide dog, Tommy

Sue Rowen from Guide Dogs UK with guide dog, Layla, Richard Fuller MP, Barbara Norton and guide dog, Tommy

I was apprehensive when Putnoe resident, Barbara Norton, encouraged me to take part in a “Blind Fold” walk so I could experience first-hand the challenges that blind and partially sighted people have getting about Bedford.  I needn’t have been as I was in the safe hands of supporters from the Guide Dogs as well as two wonderful Guide Dogs, Layla and Tommy.

First task: getting to the bus stop and while Barbara, guided by Tommy, stormed on ahead, I was proceeding slowly, noticing every crack and divot in the pavement with my cane.

A few weeks ago, I asked questions in Parliament about the Government’s plans to roll out audio visual prompts in buses and having caught the bus in to town as part of the Blind Fold walk, I now appreciate how helpful it would be to have my stop announced.  We have “Talking Buses” in London, so why not in Bedford?

My next encounter was navigating A boards, wheelie bins and an unexpected double glazing stall as I walked from the High Street to Harpur Square.  I know the town well, but what I learned was that you can never be certain that something new might not be in your way on any particular day.  No damage done, though I did apologise to a street sign for bumping into it.

I was told afterwards that my Blind Fold walking was a little wayward, so I am grateful to the people who had to dodge out of my way and who were, in almost all cases, very understanding.

At the end of my journey, I felt a sense of accomplishment, but I can’t help thinking that in a truly equal society, getting from A to B should not require such exertion.  There are so many small changes that could make such journeys easier.

For more information about Guide Dogs UK’s Talking Buses Campaign, visit http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/supportus/campaigns/talkingbuses

Richard has signed a motion calling for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate allegations of price-fixing by British oil companies. The motion, initiated by Robert Halfon MP and supported by a number of MPs across all parties, is likely to be debated in Parliament in September.

 Richard said, “As the Times and Citizen fuel campaign has shown over recent months, our local petrol prices are unjustifiably high. Although the Government has already done a great deal to support the motorist – stopping the 3p August rise, scrapping the January rise, and cutting fuel duty by 1p in 2011 – there is much more that should be done to challenge the oil companies and their part in keeping petrol prices high.

 “The OFT has failed to tackle the oil companies and that’s why I am calling for an OFT investigation – a crucial next step in the T&C’s campaign for fairer fuel prices.”

 Robert Halfon MP added, “I’m delighted that Richard is campaigning for cheaper petrol and diesel. To be fair to the Government, they have now cut fuel duty by 10p, compared with what Labour were planning. But it’s essential that we also crack down on the oil companies to make sure they pass on cheaper oil process at the pumps. That’s why Richard and I are pressing for a full enquiry by the OFT.”

 

Richard welcomed the Government’s announcement on rail investment for 2015-19 that places Bedford at the centre of new investment in our railways.

Richard commented, “These plans will upgrade the Midland Mainline, which connects London  through Bedford to Sheffield, by electrifying the line from Bedford northwards. The announcment also reconfirmed the Government’s commitment to re-building – and fully electrifying – the railway between Bedford and Oxford as part of the East-West Rail Project.  The Department for Transport will also be continuing discussions with local authorities to secure the final piece of the East-West rail line that will connect Bedford to Cambridge and beyond.

“Bedford and Kempston have a proud rail heritage and I am delighted that Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Transport has recognised this in today’s announcement.  Although scheduled some time ahead, these investments emphasise Bedford’s centrality for commerce and will provide a long term boost to the potential for local job creation.”