Network Rail challenged over impact of Park Street rail freight depot

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A GOVERNMENT minister has kept his word and challenged Network Rail on the impact of the proposed rail freight depot in Park Street on commuter train services.

Transport minister, Simon Burns, met St Albans and Hertsmere MPs, Anne Main and James Clappison, last month to discuss their concerns over the ability of the local rail network to cope with the development of a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on the former Radlett Airfield in Park Street.

The two MPs raised several issues including the need for clarification that there was the space and capacity for freight trains on the Thameslink line used by First Capital Connect (FCC) for its busy passenger routes in and out of London.

Mr Burns promised to contact Network Rail when he had received further information on the matters concerning the MPs and Mrs Main has now received a copy of his letter to chief executive David Higgins.

In it Mr Burns raises such issues as whether the gauge on the line between London and Radlett is sufficient, the effect of line electrification on gauge enhancement through three tunnels on the Thameslink route and the impact on commuter services.

The MPs, Mr Burns said, had voiced their concerns that the demand for freight paths into and out of Radlett Airfield would not be compatible with FCC’s plans for increased passenger services on the Thameslink route and how gaining access and egress from slow lines could cause delays to commuter trains.

He has also asked for further information about the use of Section 106 money – paid on the receipt of planning approval – to carry out the necessary improvements to the line and questioned why Network Rail modelling work was only now being undertaken.

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Currently St Albans council is awaiting a hearing in front of a judge after an unsuccessful bid to seek a Judicial Review over a decision by Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles in December not to go ahead with a conjoined inquiry into the SRFI scheme for Park Street and a similar one at Colnbrook in Slough.

Subsequently Mr Pickles said he was ‘minded’ to approve the Park Street scheme subject to planning agreements.

Mr Burns has asked Network Rail for its latest position on the rail-related works that will need to be undertaken in order to develop the Radlett Airfkeld site, how long they would take and the impact on Thameslink, particularly its commuter services.