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Bedford to Milton Keynes Waterway Park

This proposed new waterway will run from the Grand Union Canal at Campbell Park, in Milton Keynes, cross the M1 between junctions 13 and 14, run near Brogborough Hill, through Marston Vale and connect with the river Great Ouse at Kempston, a suburb of Bedford.

Things to do nearby

Facts & Stats



The idea of linking East Anglia’s rivers to the national canal network to create a navigable ring was first proposed by Samuel Whitbread



Could be attracted to this new waterway, studies have shown.


Permanent jobs

Would be created by this work



of temporary, construction jobs would be created.

£26 million


would be brought in to the local economy each year

Bedford to Milton Keynes

The line of the canal has been safeguarded and is included in all regional and national plans, and the first funded structure – an underpass under the new duelled A421 near Stewartby – was completed in autumn 2009.

The project has been led by a consortium of local councils and other agencies since 2010.

Partners include:

  • Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust (B&MKWT)
  • Local councils
  • IWA
  • Canal & River Trust
  • Great Ouse Boating Association
  • Environment Agency.

As well as creating regeneration opportunities for local communities along its route, it would also provide a strategic connection to the waterways of East Anglia.  Part of the Ouse and two railway bridges will have to be modified to allow boats to pass along the river. Then it will be possible to reach Cambridge, Peterborough and possibly Boston in Lincolnshire if the Boston to Peterborough Wetland Corridor is progressed.

Recent campaigns

IWA recently supported the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterways Trust to secure a culvert under a section of the upgraded A421. The Department for Transport and councils involved in the road scheme had made it clear that there was no funding available to build the culvert.  Without progress to resolve this problem the planned waterway was threatened.

IWA showed how important the new waterway is as it will provide a new link to the waterways of East Anglia, as well as creating a new waterway cruising ring and extending considerably the waterways accessible from the south by wide beam boats.

The route of the proposed new waterway appeared to be protected in all the relevant Local Plans, until the announcement that Government had found £22.5m to turn the stretch of road between Milton Keynes and junction 13 of the M1 into a dual carriageway, with no provision for the proposed waterway to pass under the road. Planning permission was already in place for the culvert.  Following a vigorous campaign the road building consortium, led by Central Bedfordshire Council, recognised the importance of the waterway, and offered to make provision for it – at a cost. B&MKWT would have to pay for the cost of a culvert – estimated at circa £3m. In addition, the Council asked B&MKWT to pay £150,000 within 3 weeks to fund the design costs for the culvert.

On the positive front the issue provided B&MKWT with opportunities to promote the new waterway to a much wider audience than previously, particularly in the context of the Oxford/Milton Keynes/Cambridge corridor. A new Oxford to Cambridge Expressway is proposed as part of the new infrastructure for the corridor and this may have implications for the upgraded A421 such that further work may be required. This could present another opportunity to ensure the Waterway route is fully integrated into local and strategic infrastructure.