Timetable and capacity fears over Park Street rail freight depot

Put the Brakes on Freight

Put the Brakes on Freight - Credit: Archant

A MEETING between local watchdogs and Network Rail over the proposed rail freight depot in Park Street has done little to assuage the Civic Society’s fears over timetabling and capacity implications.

The Civic Society wanted to meet Network Rail to establish whether the proposed freight trains servicing the Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) at Radlett Airfield would be able to come and go during the day.

They were told by Spencer Gibbens, route enhancement manager for Network Rail, that subject to the operator funding the necessary rail access works, up to half the 12-daily loaded and empty freight trains would run between the peak times. The remainder would have to come by night.

Network Rail did not feel that this would significantly hinder their current maintenance practices for both track and overhead equipment.

In the past there has been disagreement between Network Rail and the current Thameslink franchise operator First Capital Connect (FCC) over the likely impact of the SRFI freight trains on the present four-fast and four-slow off-peak services and their regular interval/clock-face times.

Mr Gibbens said Network Rail did not feel that the issues would be insurmountable although there could be problems with the timing of the extra two or more passenger services promised in the Thameslink enhancement programme.

The 16 trains per hour peak services would not be affected.

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In conjunction with funding provided by the developer, Network Rail proposes to carry out some extra timetable modelling during the summer, the outcome of which will not be known until September.

Eric Roberts, of the Civic Society, said: “This is obviously of some concern as it is possible the go-ahead could well be given for the planning permission before September.”

Developers Helioslough, which had been given the nod by government to build the scheme, are calling for planning permission to be given regardless of a Judicial Review over the issue being sought by St Albans council.

Mr Roberts said that the Civic Society shared local concerns that funding to cover the costs of providing the necessary rail infrastructure would not be forthcoming and the interchange would become a road-based operation, pushing lots more traffic on to the local network.

He added: “There do not appear to be sufficient safeguards in the current planning conditions or S106 agreements to prevent this from happening.”