Network Rail berated by St Albans MP for being ‘vague’ about Strategic Rail Freight Interchange

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling - Credit: Contributed

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has been asked to clarify how freight and passenger services could function together on the busy Midland Main Line, should the strategic rail freight depot be built.

St Albans MP Anne Main

St Albans MP Anne Main - Credit: Archant

St Albans MP Anne Main has written to the Secretary of State about the mammoth terminal proposed to be constructed at the former Radlett airfield in Park Street.

She pointed out concerns about the, “continued absence of any freight timetabling on the busy Midland Main Line”.

Anne said that Network Rail has confirmed there is still no timetable for the line, which would accommodate both passenger and freight services, despite the depot being 10 years in the planning.

As publicised recently in the Herts Advertiser, developer Segro has confirmed it is pushing ahead with plans to make an offer to Herts county council to buy the Green Belt site and build the depot.

In her letter to the Transport Secretary, Anne said that for the best part of a decade she had been asking technical questions as to how freight trains on the Midland Main Line could run a service on the same line as the passenger service.

She added: “Despite many meetings, public hearings and letters to Network Rail, I am shocked to learn that we still have no evidence of how this may work in practice.

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“Indeed, during the time of the initial planning inquiry [on the scheme] in 2007, Network Rail submitted a short letter and were absent from the meeting.

“The previous train operators First Capital Connect (FCC) were thoroughly cross-examined. FCC at the time expressed deep concern over how freight and passenger services would work together.

“Now with freight developer Segro preparing a bid for the land ‘shortly’, we have yet to see any evidence of a fully-functioning timetable.”

The MP added: “Commuters in St Albans pay good money to commute daily. In the absence of any evidence, they rightly believe that their service into London could be disrupted should rail freight go ahead.

“This would compound the difficulties that they have experienced since the London Bridge upgrades and the many other disruptions following the Govia Thameslink takeover [of the franchise].”

In her letter, she berates Network Rail for its ‘casualness’ in dealing with the strategic terminal and says that commuters’ fears over the impact of the scheme upon their travel have yet to be assuaged by firm evidence from the rail authority

She said that Network Rail’s assurances about the viability of accommodating strategic rail freight interchange traffic was too ‘vague’.

Anne has called for a meeting between the Transport Secretary, her and Network Rail to discuss the issue further.

She added: “I do strongly believe that if the government does want to expand freight capacity across the network, at the same time that train companies need to expand their capacity to meet growing demand, then the department must insist that Network Rail are working to meet and deliver national policy.”