St Albans and Harpenden commuters must get on board anti-rail freight lobby

Man in court over alleged offence committed on train

Man in court over alleged offence committed on train - Credit: Archant

Commuters are being urged to wake up and smell the mint sauce before they become lambs to the slaughter of the proposed rail freight scheme for Park Street.

Both St Albans Civic Society and the action group STRiFE - Stop The Rail Freight Exchange - believe Thameslink commuters are sleepwalking around the impact the proposal for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) will have on their journeys.

Major work will be needed on the Elstree and Belsize tunnels to facilitate access for freight trains into the SRFI which has planning permission to be built on the former Radlett Airfield.

And that will not just affect passengers travelling from St Albans City and Radlett stations but Harpenden as well.

Eric Roberts for the Civic Society explained that the tracks through the two tunnels would have to be lowered for freight use reducing the existing four lanes to two. With the fast lanes already occupied, local commuters would find themselves pushed on to the slow lanes.

Calling on commuters to ‘wake up’, he said they had everything to gain and nothing to lose by supporting the campaign to persuade the county council not to sell their land at Radlett Airfield to developers Helioslough for the SRFI.

He pointed out that operators Govia would just be getting the Thameslink Programme on its feet when the tunnel work could get underway and commuters had good reason to sign the petition calling on the county council not to sell to Helioslough.

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He said: “If the land is not sold, then their services can only get better if we believe the promises.”

Eric pointed out that rail travellers had tremendous power and a groundswell of objections from them could become an area election issue as it had at London Bridge and Croydon.

Cathy Bolshaw from STRiFE echoed Civic Society concerns saying work to access a rail freight depot would have “a dramatic impact on commuters” for at least two years.

She went on: “Whilst rail connectivity is being done, they will close down two of the lines through the Elstree Tunnel which will make things so much worse than they are now.”

She warned that it would affect not just St Albans and Radlett but Harpenden as well.

The online petition calling on the county council not to sell the land now about 11,000 signatures. It can be signed by anyone living in Herts and can be found here.