St Albans MP continues fight against Park Street rail freight depot

Put the Brakes on Freight

Put the Brakes on Freight - Credit: Archant

PRESSURE on government ministers over concerns about the building of a massive rail freight depot in Park Street is being piled on by St Albans MP Anne Main.

She has contacted ministers at both the Department of Transport (DoT) and Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) over issues which have surfaced in the past few weeks.

Currently St Albans council is waiting to hear if it can proceed with a Judicial Review into an earlier decision by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles not to proceed with a combined public inquiry into the scheme for Radlett Airfield and one at Colnbrook near Slough.

In the meantime developers Helioslough have been putting pressure on the government to ignore any Judicial Review and reach a decision about the scheme which Mr Pickles has already said he is “minded” to approve.

And last week it emerged that Network Rail would not have the outcome of a timetable modelling exercise until September on the impact on rail services if the rail freight depot was built.

In a letter to Simon Burns, Minister of State at the DoT, Mrs Main said that Network Rail had always maintained there would be no problem until a meeting with St Albans Civic Society last month when they had admitted that it could compromise both current train services and the future Thameslink programme’s increased passenger service.

She went on: “At this eleventh hour, Network Rail have conceded what we have suspected all along; that the proposed terminal appears to be detrimental to the current passenger service.”

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She argued that Network Rail did not have until September for the results of the extra modelling because Helioslough was pushing Mr Pickles to give the final go-ahead for the scheme.

Mrs Main called on Mr Burns to request that Network Rail carry out the modelling immediately and inform Mr Pickes’s department that previous assurances given by Network Rail were not valid.

She has made similar points in a letter to planning minister Nick Boles, criticising Helioslough’s pressure on the DCLG to give the final go ahead for the scheme.

She described them as, “the actions of a developer who is keen to sidestep the clear problems with their proposal to force an outcome in their favour” and argued that a rail freight depot in Bexley had stood empty since it got planning permission six years ago because the developer there had failed to find sufficient companies to occupy the floor space.

Urging the revival of the proposal for a joint Radlett/Colnbrook public inquiry, Mrs Main said it would allow the facts to be aired in public and “not hidden behind the closed doors of lawyers’ letters”.