Radlett rail freight battle heating up

PUBLISHED: 15:54 17 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:33 06 May 2010

CALLS for the second rail freight appeal hearing to be adjourned on its first day have come following a meeting to discuss the details of the looming inquiry. Legal representatives of St Albans district council (SADC), developers Helioslough and action gr

CALLS for the second rail freight appeal hearing to be adjourned on its first day have come following a meeting to discuss the details of the looming inquiry.

Legal representatives of St Albans district council (SADC), developers Helioslough and action group STRiFE gathered in the council chamber last Thursday for a pre-inquiry hearing to discuss details such as the date and schedule for the appeal hearing.

The November 24 start date was ratified, as was the time frame of 16 days - despite earlier calls for the inquiry to be delayed and last for 24 days, a similar length to the first inquiry into the plans for the 3.5 million-square-foot depot on the Green Belt in Park Street.

Inspector Andrew Mead said something would be "wrong" if it lasted the same duration as the first appeal and explained that the date was set by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Govern-ment, John Denham.

But he did emphasise that he has the power to adjourn the inquiry once it had started and later said he was "very interested" in hearing the evidence on rail path availability.

However, as revealed by the Herts Advertiser, the preliminary results of a feasibility study conducted by Network Rail are unlikely to be released until later in the year.

St Albans MP Anne Main told Mr Mead that the inquiry shouldn't be rushed through without the technical information on whether the Midland Mainline had the capacity for additional freight trains.

Speaking after the meeting, she explained that developers due to submit similar plans for the Colnbrook site in Slough later this year had already confirmed at least 10 available rail pathways for freight trains accessing the proposed terminal.

Pathways

Mrs Main said: "The developers of the potential site in Colnbrook have already banked their pathways. But in St Albans we are being expected to build a rail freight site with no knowledge of the available freight pathways.

"It isn't the right way around - we should have this technical information before the development of a rail freight site."

But she believes that it is positive that Mr Mead expressed his interest in hearing the evidence on rail paths and she hopes he will adjourn the inquiry until the detailed information is available.

St Albans Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Sandy Walkington also supported an adjournment: "If the key evidence on railway paths and train traffic, which is crucial to this new inquiry, is not available then he should consider adjourning until that is available.

"Otherwise it becomes a completely hollow farce.

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