Spat between rail companies goes on

PUBLISHED: 12:18 22 November 2007 | UPDATED: 12:45 06 May 2010

Elaine Holt

Elaine Holt

THE SPAT between Thameslink line train operators First Capital Connect (FCC) and Network Rail over the proposed giant rail freight terminal has been aired at the public inquiry. The Herts Advertiser revealed last week that the two rail companies were at l

THE SPAT between Thameslink line train operators First Capital Connect (FCC) and Network Rail over the proposed giant rail freight terminal has been aired at the public inquiry.

The Herts Advertiser revealed last week that the two rail companies were at loggerheads over the terminal scheme which Network Rail supports but which FCC warns could have a detrimental effect on commuter services.

FCC was called to give evidence to the public inquiry into the terminal even though senior managers of the train operator maintained they were not made aware that the application had gone to appeal.

Managing director Elaine Holt said this week: "Had it not been for the local MP, Anne Main, we would not have known about this, and given that the proposal is likely to have a significant detrimental effect on our business and our customers, we should have been informed."

FCC says the infrastructure on the Midland Mainline, which includes the Thameslink route, is already inadequate to support any increase in traffic. And in a letter to the inquiry, Ms Holt went so far as to say that Network Rail could be acting unlawfully in supporting the scheme because it was obliged to remain neutral in such circumstances.

James Morgan, director of passenger development at FirstGroup, FCC's parent company, gave evidence at the inquiry accompanied by his legal representative Jim Ryan. He said that although FCC's predecessor Thameslink had been consulted over the proposals, no information had been passed on when the franchise was transferred to them.

But Helioslough's legal representative, Martin Kingston QC, produced email correspondence between Helioslough and FCC about the proposals dating back to May 2006.

Mr Morgan contended that FCC had not been consulted in depth and had been unaware of the problems the proposal would inflict on rail services.

Network Rail has been called upon to submit further evidence to the inquiry.

St Albans MP Anne Main and Hertsmere MP James Clappison also gave evidence to the inquiry last week together with campaign group STRiFE.

Mrs Main pointed out that there was no readily-available workforce in the area because of low unemployment and staff would therefore be drawn from further away with many of them commuting by car. She said: "Surely the whole point of getting freight off roads is to reduce the carbon emissions - a site should not therefore plan to significantly increase carbon emissions through a migratory, car-dependent work force."

STRiFE then went on to give evidence against the development. Adrian Wallace, a resident of Burydell Lane, which abuts the proposed terminal site, talked of the effect the proposals would have on the Green Belt. He warned that the development, "would dwarf, it would over-power, it would suffocate and it would destroy the local community beyond imagination".

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