Rail freight latest

SIR - It is with considerable surprise that I read that Network Rail has told Anne Main that it cannot guarantee freight train paths into the Radlett rail freight site. In its simplest terms each of the pair of railway tracks running past the site should

SIR - It is with considerable surprise that I read that Network Rail has told Anne Main that it cannot guarantee freight train paths into the Radlett rail freight site.

In its simplest terms each of the pair of railway tracks running past the site should be able to cope with around 15 trains per hour each way, i.e. a total of 30 trains.

The number of passenger trains proposed to run through here is 16 Thameslink and five East Midland trains per hour which is well short of this.

The limits on the number of Thameslink trains is set by the capacity of the tunnel through St Pancras to Blackfriars and the limit on the number of East Midlands trains is set by the four platforms at St Pancras, although trains terminating at St Albans and Luton and the capacity of the junctions at Kentish Town also become a factor at peak times.

Last year there was a capacity issue further up the line between Kettering and Wellingborough that was preventing Network Rail from accepting any further trains on this line but this has since been resolved by simple reinstating a few miles of track removed by British Rail in the early 1990s.

Far from this line not having capacity for more trains it has now been designated part of the strategic freight network and plans are being put in place to clear the lines for the largest wagons permitted on the UK network and further it is being investigated if the line can be cleared to take normal Berne Gauge wagons as used on continental Europe.

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The reason for this is that freight trains will shortly start using the Channel Tunnel rail link which is capable of taking such wagons and which of course terminates at St Pancras.

Indeed the line through St Albans is now seen as the best route for freight trains from Europe to reach the Midlands, not just because it is easy to connect to the Channel Tunnel rail link but also because line through Watford is effectively full and will reach saturation point in the next 10 years or so and there are also capacity issues with the line through Hatfield that means it will not be that long before it also reaches saturation.

What this means is that we will have the disruption to our local train services whilst the track in the tunnels is lowered regardless whether or not the freight terminal is built and for many reasons it is now located in the ideal place to be rail served. What we need to do is ensure that the impact on the local community is minimal.

As such, a local station to serve both the workers at the depot and local residents would seem a must, as would direct access for lorries from the depot to the soon to be widened anyway M25.

Those who believe that if the depot is built further north, away from the congestion surrounding London are a little misguided.

The lorries would simply be travelling down either the M1 or A1(M) to serve the same locations, ironically in many ways making life worse for those living in Chiswell Green every time the M1 is blocked.


Berkley Close

St Albans

SIR - Here's looking at you, Minister!

So at last Network Rail has indicated it cannot guarantee the number of pathways Helioslough will require for freightliner trains to serve the proposed Railfreight Depot (Herts Advertiser, July 9). Regular readers of your paper may recall that I first mooted this capacity issue several months ago as a significant factor - one that had changed since the last decision was made.

In short, the Midland main line is now full - with express, suburban and other freight operators' trains. And this is before Thameslink 2000 comes along. Top marks to First Capital Connect and MP Anne Main for beginning to press this point home.

This surely makes the application invalid. If the freight trains cannot come and go, it is therefore not, and cannot ever become, a rail freight Depot in the true sense of the words.

Helioslough should withdraw its plan and stop wasting our council's time and money, as well as that of local organisations and local people. If, like last time, Helioslough forces an appeal, it is quite unacceptable that St Albans City and District Council - and its citizens through their council tax - should have to pay for such an exercise. Word has it that it cost about �400,000 last time round. All for a plan that cannot be delivered on - except by road and huge juggernaut lorry movements.

Helioslough may be able to afford such appeals, but the community cannot and should not have to do so.

Someone, surely, can put a stop to this now. Is there nobody with some teeth in the Planning Inspectorate's system? Yes, Minister, I'm looking at you!


Fishpool Street

St Albans

SIR - In his desire to support Helioslough's rail freight interchange proposal, Leslie Freitag (Herts Advertiser, July 9 2009) gets his facts all wrong.

A new railway station near Napsbury has been talked about for years but the Strategic Rail Authority and its successor organisations have never been prepared to fund it. The County Structure Plan, to which Mr Freitag refers, has been superseded by the East of England Plan (Regional Spatial Strategy), in which there is no mention of a station, nor is it in the County's Local Transport Plan. The suggestion that a rail freight depot at the former Radlett Aerodrome site will facilitate a rail passenger station is pie in the sky. Let no-one be fooled into thinking that allowing a rail freight interchange will 'buy' us one.

As to connection of the depot to the M25, we in CPRE Hertfordshire checked this with the Highways Agency at the time of Helioslough's first application and were sent the following policy statement about access to motorways:

"Direct access to motorways will be limited to grade separated junctions from other trunk routes or major local roads, motorway service areas, maintenance compounds and, exceptionally, other major transport interchanges.

This reflects the need, in the interests of safety and the free flow of traffic, for severe restrictions on the number of motorway accesses.

The Agency will therefore direct local planning authorities not to grant planning permission for applications incorporating access proposals which would breach this policy."

It is inconceivable that the Highways Agency would allow a direct access point on the M25 so close to Junctions 21a and 22, which is why the Helioslough proposals will pour hundreds of lorry movements a day onto the A414 North Orbital road in order to reach the M25.

The concept of a strategic rail freight interchange that would actually take freight off the roads and put it onto rail is one that we in CPRE support in principle.

Unfortunately, this proposal by Helioslough has disadvantages that significantly outweigh the advantages.

The Midland main line is not the best strategic route for transferring freight from Europe, through London, to the industrial areas of North West England, Scotland and Wales.

The Radlett site is severely constricted by the M25 to the south and the A414 to the north, so that direct rail access to and from the north is not possible.

This means that trains to and from the north would have to run down to Cricklewood and back again.

Hardly an efficient way to run a railway.

In the light of the Inspector's report and the Secretary of State's decision on the previous application, the success of the current application hinges on whether Helioslough can demonstrate that there is no other more suitable site in the north-west sector of the M25.

Having examined their Alternative Sites Assessment, we conclude that there are other sites available and that Radlett is not the most suitable site.

For more information, see our website www.cpreherts.org.uk


Planning Manager

CPRE - The Hertfordshire Society

31a Church Street