Park Street rail freight latest

Put the Brakes on Freight - Herts Advertiser campaign

Put the Brakes on Freight - Herts Advertiser campaign - Credit: Archant

No feasibility studies have been undertaken into the work needed on the Elstree Tunnels to facilitate large trains entering a rail freight depot in Park Street.

Newly-elected Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden has quizzed Network Rail and tabled parliamentary questions about whether any feasibility studies had been undertaken on the work needed on the tunnels to enable freight trains to access the proposed Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) proposed for Radlett Airfield which is in the Green Belt.

And the responses he has received demonstrate that no such studies have been carried out.

Calling for no work to commence until full feasibility studies have been undertaken, Mr Dowden said this week: “It is now clear that developers have no idea about the cost, timescale or impact of the works that would be needed to the Elstree Tunnels. This project must not start until these questions have been answered.”

He went on: “This scheme seeks to deliver a rail freight terminal therefore rail connections to the proposed terminal are of critical importance.

“Questions regarding the feasibility of the works needed to the Elstree Tunnels raise questions as to the feasibility of the proposed Rail Freight Terminal. For the proposed terminal to truly be a ‘rail terminal’ it needs to be properly integrated into the existing rail infrastructure.”

Rail access to the site has been one of the issues raised by objectors to the SRFI scheme proposed by developers Helioslough which has now got planning permission from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Former Thameslink line operators First Capital Connect voiced strong objections to the scheme because of its impact on the commuter line but Network Rail gave the scheme its backing.

In the wake of St Albans council’s decision not to pursue legal action over the granting of planning permission the county council now has to decide whether or not it will sell its share of the land occupied by the former airfield to Helioslough.

* Proposals for a Slough Integrated Freight Exchange (SIFE) in Colnbrook could yet have a bearing on the SRFI scheme for Park Street.

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At one time the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, proposed a combined public inquiry into the two schemes but Goodman, the company behind the SIFE, successfully called for the Slough scheme to be adjourned pending a decision on the Radlett Airfield site.

With a public inquiry into the SIFE scheme now pending, campaigners against the Colnbrook scheme anticipate that Helioslough might be among the objectors to it.

The SIFE inquiry is due to open in September but the situation is further complicated by the fact that Colnbrook is the area which has been earmarked for a third runway at Heathrow Airport in the recently-released Davies Commission.

*Over 6,000 signatures have been placed on an e-petition urging the county council not to sell its land at Radlett Airfield to Helioslough. 10,000 signatures are needed to guarantee a public debate on the issue and the petition can be found under e-petitions on the Herts county council website.