Freight Trains in Timetable Would Create Misery for Commuters, says expert

PUBLISHED: 15:42 08 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:44 06 May 2010

A RETIRED rail timetable planner has said that the thought of shoehorning freight train pathways onto the Midland Main Line at Radlett filled him with operational horror. Eric Roberts, former area manager for the Thameslink route between Farringdon and

A RETIRED rail timetable planner has said that the thought of shoehorning freight train pathways onto the Midland Main Line at Radlett filled him with "operational horror."

Eric Roberts, former area manager for the Thameslink route between Farringdon and Bedford, told the rail freight inquiry last week that it would cause, "operational harm and misery for commuters who already have a rough time".

He explained that his role involved timetable scheduling and responsibility for the power signal box at West Hampstead which controls the line, leaving him knowledgeable about its strengths, weaknesses and capabilities.

Mr Roberts, who is a member of the St Albans Civic Society, said his greatest concern was whether or not the heavy freight trains, which weren't very nimble, could negotiate junctions without causing severe disruption to passenger trains.

He said: "It's not the total capacity where ideally most trains move at similar speeds along the lines and so past the terminal that matters, but where the timetable graph lines either clash or get close as trains have to stop, slow down and cross over at junctions. That's when capacity and pathways get reduced and compromised."

Mr Roberts said that if the freight paths were found it would be at night, thus creating noise and light pollution issues as well as impacting on essential engineering works which would rebound onto the daytime services.

Before any decision was made on the plans, Mr Roberts insisted that route capacity and new timetables for the Thameslink 2000 programme needed to be presented in detail otherwise there was a risk a road-based freight terminal would get the go-ahead through the back door.

He added: "Helioslough appear to be relying on Network Rail to pull something out of the bag. Network Rail appears like a child in a sweet shop - it wants it all.

"Is it putting off the producing of a draft timetable and a belated gauge study because it's all really just too difficult to do?

"Such a lack of guarantee and details is not good enough; not fair to their existing rail operators, passenger and freight, paying high access charges in order to run their trains now and in the future.


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