Radlett rail freight campaigners support inquiry decision

BACKING for St Albans council’s decision not to ask for the inquiry into a rail freight depot in Park Street to be reopened has come from the campaign group set up to fight the scheme.

STRiFE – Stop the Rail Freight Exchange – has written to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, taking the same stance as the district council that the inquiry should not be reopened.

As an interested party, they were among those whom Mr Pickles invited to submit any new and additional information about the proposal as he decides what action to take next.

STRiFE came to their decision based primarily on the costs which would be incurred but also because after receiving legal advice, they believe it will not be the end of the matter and the funds they have might be needed even more in the future.

The future of the 3.5 million sq. ft. strategic rail freight interchange (SRFI) on the former Radlett Airfield is up in the air again after developers Helioslough won a judicial challenge in the High Court over the Secretary of State’s decision to overrule his planning inspector and refuse the scheme last year.

In their submission, STRiFE has opted to raise two issues which have arisen since the last public inquiry.

One relates to an assessment of the capacity of the Midland Mainline to accommodate the predicted number of train movements from the SRFI following a new publication on the strategy for using routes in London and the South East published by Network Rail.

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It acknowledges that two freight paths in each off-peak hour still exists but concedes that many will be taken by existing domestic traffic to the extent that options for absorbing growth for the London Gateway would be extremely limited.

STRiFe maintains that the options for growth that incorporates 24 daily train movements for an SRFI at Radlett would similarly be extremely limited.

The campaign group also points to material changes in the circumstances relating to the comparison between the Radlett Airfield proposal and that at Colnbrook near Heathrow Airport.

It cites a new document relating to industry proposals which specifically mentions enabling freight terminals to be developed at Colnbrook and Avonmouth which would minimise disruption to rail users and deliver the scheme in conjunction with the electrification of the Great Western Main Line.

In light of the circumstances, STRiFE is calling on the Secretary of State to dismiss the Helioslough appeal on the basis that the Colnbrook proposal is preferable.

Cathy Bolshaw of STRiFE said: “We would like to assure all our supporters and everyone in St Albans and all the surrounding villages that we are still working very hard to try and protect this area of South West Hertfordshire from the horrendous consequences of this monstrous proposal.”