Rail freight inquiry - terminal makes no sense says First Capital Connect

PUBLISHED: 15:48 02 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:44 06 May 2010

BUILDING a rail freight terminal on the busiest stretch of the Midland Main Line (MML) makes no sense, train operator First Capital Connect (FCC) has argued. Speaking in support of STRiFE s case at the inquiry into Helioslough s plans to build a massive r

BUILDING a rail freight terminal on the busiest stretch of the Midland Main Line (MML) makes no sense, train operator First Capital Connect (FCC) has argued.

Speaking in support of STRiFE's case at the inquiry into Helioslough's plans to build a massive rail freight terminal on Green Belt land in Park Street, company director Hugh Clancy said he could not understand why the developers had chosen the site.

He claimed that they had selected the location for its motorway links rather than the suitability of the rail infrastructure to support the scheme.

According to him, there are other places along the MML north of St Albans without such an intensity of services where a rail freight terminal would have less of a detrimental impact on passenger services.

Network Rail has yet to complete a feasibility study into the capacity for freight trains at the site and along the route but it insists two paths will be available in each off-peak hour.

Mr Clancy refuted that, especially since the new timetable for the £5.5 billion Thameslink 2000 programme would see even more trains along the route.

But even if the freight trains were to be shoehorned into the schedule, Mr Clancy argued that it would only be possible overnight and would limit the "white-space" available in the timetable to rectify problems during the night for the morning peak.

He also pointed out that Network Rail had failed to address for more than two years the issue of how trains would access the site from the north and where the freight trains heading for the terminal would join the MML.

Mr Clancy then went on to accuse the organisation of having conflicting interests: "Network Rail has many hats to wear - they are the guardian of the rail network but have commercial interests with developers who plan to improve its infrastructure, and there has to be some recognition that Network Rail will have the financial benefit that that they are due."

But Mr Clancy said that he did not believe Helioslough would hand Network Rail a "blank-cheque" to complete any gauge enhancement works and would therefore have no commitment to hand over the millions of pounds it would cost.

He emphasised that First Group, the parent company of FCC, had a freight-operating arm and said he supported putting freight on the rail if it was economical, effective and didn't have a detrimental impact on passenger services.

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