M25 link cost could have stopped Park Street rail freight bid

The cost of a junction off the M25 motorway to a proposed rail freight interchange in Park Street could have proved so “prohibitively expensive” as to stop the developers in their tracks according to St Albans MP Anne Main.

She was responding to a letter from Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department of Transport (DoT), Robert Goodwill, concerning his department’s policy over new accesses on to motorways.

He said that at the time the application was submitted by Helioslough for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the former Radlett Airfield, the DoT’s policy was that new acccesses would only be allowed, apart from the provision of such requirement as service areas, “in exceptional circumstances for major transport interchanges such as airports”.

Mrs Main believes that an SRFI comes under the heading of a major traffic interchange and that St Albans district council might have missed the chance to protect people living around the A404 and the villages from heavy lorries going to and from the SRFI.

She went on: “I am shocked to see that there appears to be a possibility that this junction could have been accessed from the motorway rather than through villages.

“A Strategic Rail Freight Interchange certainly counts as a major transport interchange and a new junction would have at least stopped the misery of thousands of lorries clogging up St Albans’ roads.

“It may also have proved prohibitively expensive and protected the site from this monstrous development. My constituents don’t understand why these lorries will comes through villages. I need answers as to what advice and guidance was given at the time.”

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In her letter to St Albans acting head of planning Simon Rowberry, she has asked why the council did not insist at the time that a new junction would be a necessity.

But Cllr Chris Brazier, portfolio holder for planning at the time the Helioslough application was submitted, said there were two reasons – the first being that the council did not want to see an SRFI on that site and was determined to oppose it at all costs.

He also said that in discussions with the Highways Agency the issue had come up but the government department was happy that the existing road network leading to the M1 and M25 motorways could cope.

Cllr Brazier also pointed out that while the council objected to the scheme on the grounds of extra traffic and heavy lorries in the area, highways issues were not part of their remit.