Network Rail Should Be at Rail Freight Inquiry - MP Argues

PUBLISHED: 15:39 08 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:44 06 May 2010

NETWORK Rail should be summoned to give evidence at the rail freight inquiry, St Albans MP Anne Main has told the planning inspector. At last Thursday s session, she called for the organisation to be cross-examined on technical data and the capacity of th

NETWORK Rail should be summoned to give evidence at the rail freight inquiry, St Albans MP Anne Main has told the planning inspector.

At last Thursday's session, she called for the organisation to be cross-examined on technical data and the capacity of the Midland Main Line (MML) to facilitate freight trains serving the proposed terminal on Green Belt land in Park Street.

Network Rail has insisted that there will be two pathways available for the freight trains to use during each off-peak hour but has so far failed to substantiate the claims with any detailed evidence.

Mrs Main said that responses to her calls for technical data have been slow, vague and at times ignored altogether, with one of her letters being shredded by Network Rail.

She said during her evidence: "I have no confidence in the blithe assurances they offer on the matter and feel they have shown through their unwillingness to be present at this inquiry that they are not taking this matter seriously."

The MP even accused the developers of having something to hide by not calling Network Rail to appear at the public inquiry to support their case - claims fervently refuted by Helioslough junior barrister, David Forsdick.

Mrs Main insisted that the rail freight pathways needed to be guaranteed and the gauge enhancement work costed before any such development went ahead, and she called the Park Street proposal "speculative" for that reason.

In the absence of the necessary rail capacity, she said the development would become a huge lorry park instead.

She pointed out that a rail freight terminal granted permission in Alconbury in 2001 did not go ahead because the pathways were dependent on alterations being made on the East Coast Main Line which were never done. As a result, planning permission was then granted for more than 30,000 homes.

Inspector Andrew Mead told Mrs Main that she should wait to see the written evidence that Network Rail submitted before calling upon them to appear and warned that STRiFE could be liable for their costs if they did attend.

The MP also said that it was wrong for developers rather than planners to decide where rail freight interchanges should be located and that the Park Street proposal was premature because the new national strategy on such developments was yet to be published.

She said: "This is a massive and potentially strategic project and only the developer believes we should be hurtling towards a decision.

"I can only surmise that they have nervousness about other, more suitable sites coming online and about the emergence of the Government's new strategies."

She added: "With a project as big as this, there should be no rush, no vagaries and no uncertainties."

Mrs Main finished her evidence by accusing Helioslough of intimidating witnesses through "veiled threats" that they could win back costs if arguments raised at the last inquiry were repeated without any changes in circumstances.


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