Lack of freight paths could scupper St Albans rail depot

PUBLISHED: 08:00 02 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:30 06 May 2010

FREIGHT paths into and out of the proposed new rail freight depot at Park Street are at the heart of its viability according to pressure group STRiFE – Stop The Rail Freight Exchange. And the campaigners are questioning why hundreds of thousands of pounds

FREIGHT paths into and out of the proposed new rail freight depot at Park Street are at the heart of its viability according to pressure group STRiFE - Stop The Rail Freight Exchange.

And the campaigners are questioning why hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money should be spent on another public inquiry if there are no freight paths available.

They believe that the freight path capability has to be assessed by Network Rail as a pre-requisite to the forthcoming public inquiry which is currently scheduled to start on November 24.

It is into St Albans council's decision to refuse planning permission for a massive Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the former Radlett Airfield in Park Street.

Last week it emerged that Network Rail has only just started a feasibility study on gauge clearance to ensure the movement of containers on the Midland Main Line and the initial findings are not expected until the end of the year.

STRiFE argues that if there are no freight paths available, the depot could not work as a rail interchange and there would be no grounds to take the site out of the Green Belt because the district would be left with a road-to-road facility which would lead to even more traffic on local roads than is already being suggested.

They cite the case at Alconbury in Huntingdon where planning permission was granted for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI), only for it to be found there was not the capacity on the East Coast Main Line for freight traffic.

Since then the land, which was an airfield, has been sold off for housing.

The pre-inquiry meeting is being held at 10am on October 8 and is open to the public. STRiFE's barrister Paul Stinchcombe will be there and supporters of the pressure group are invited to come along.

Blob* A St Albans resident has made a formal complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman over the undue haste with which SRFI developers Helioslough tried to push through the date of the planning inquiry

Vanessa Gregory has made her complaint through St Albans MP Anne Main claiming that Helioslough is seeking a "tactical advantage" through the timing of the planning application and its push for an early appeal date - the developers originally wanted a date in October.

She points out that the Department of Transport will be issuing a consultation

paper later this year setting a policy on SRFIs within national networks, superseding the Strategic Rail Authority's policy published in 2004.

And she adds: "Many people feel that the appeal should have this document available and the appellants' rush for an appeal date indicates that they fear this document could harm their case.

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