Bedford sidings pave way for first 12-carriage trains

Bedford sidings pave way for first 12-carriage trains

Break-through: The sidings were opened with a train passing through a banner

New railway sidings that will help First Capital Connect (FCC) operate its first-ever 50% longer 12-carriage trains, at the same time providing vital extra jobs, were opened this week and named in honour of a Bedford railwayman born and bred in the town.

Jowett Sidings, as they are now known, have been built by Network Rail and will be used to stable 12-carriage trains that are almost one quarter of a kilometre long.

They come into operation on 12 December when FCC extends three services from Bedford in the morning rush hour to 12-carriage length and three home again in the evening, creating almost 1,500 extra seats every day. More 12-carriage trains will be introduced when a new fleet of trains is delivered in 2015.

And in a boost to the local economy, five shunters have been employed from the Bedford area to operate the sidings.

The sidings were opened officially by Shirley Jowett of Kempston, Bedford. Her husband, Rodney, began work as a Bedford cleaner in the days of steam. He was hugely popular among his colleagues and rose to the ranks of driver in the late ’60s and became a senior driver instructor, ending his career as Train Crew Leader when he took retirement in 2000. Sadly, he had little time to enjoy his retirement before he died from cancer in 2003.

Mrs Jowett unveiled a plaque in Rodney’s memory and a 12-carriage train entered the sidings, christening the facility.

First Capital Connect Managing Director Neal Lawson said: “These sidings give us the capability to operate our first-ever 50% longer 12-carriage trains. We’ll have three in the morning and three in the evening to begin with but many more will arrive with the new fleet of trains in 2015.

“To name these sidings in memory of Rodney was the right thing to do. He was a railwayman through and through and a true gentleman which makes him an inspiration to us all.

“And we are delighted to have been able to provide extra employment in these straightened times in the form of five new shunters.”

Mrs Jowett said: “Rodney is still very much in our hearts today and we are proud and touched to have him remembered in this way.