Anne Main MP has said that Network Rail’s handling of the proposed development of the Radlett railfreight demonstrates a ‘sloppy and vague approach to infrastructure’, following her recent letter to the company.
The St Albans MP wrote to Network Rail (NR) expressing her concerns about the capacity and demand for railfreight on current lines between London and the South East. ‘This issue has been rumbling on for over a decade and there are still no answers, even at this critical juncture’, said Mrs Main.
Major freight lines such as the East and West Coast Main Line have a gauge of 10. The Midland Main Line has a freight gauge of 8 between London and Radlett. This would limit the capacity of a railfreight interchange at Radlett. Further, because passenger services operate on a different demand-based timetabling schedule to railfreight services, NR would need to consider how this would work in practice.
Mrs Main highlighted this conflict in her letter and asked NR what plans will be implemented to overcome this, writing:
‘Capacity for rail freight services to move to and from an interchange in Radlett is questionable. Whilst the rail minister has forbidden railfreight services using sections of the MML, it seems that such assurances are unrealistic given the responsive and sporadic timetabling of freight travel.’
She sought further assurances from NR that they would enact plans to guarantee that railfreight services will not require access to the passenger routes during peak hours:
‘It remains unclear whether the current routes between London and South East, which have been described in the government’s National Networks National Policy Statement (2014) as one of the busiest passenger services with demand that is set to increase by 46.1% by 2033 (p.16/17), could accommodate a sporadic timetabling schedule.’
Mrs Main also questioned the current demand for railfreight services in the UK. ‘I want assurances that, if the SRFI were to somehow be built in Radlett, it would operate at full capacity’. According to analysis by the St Albans MP, the railfreight industry has suffered a decline in the total volume of commodities it moves over the past two years. ‘This was supported by the rail minister’s response to a question I asked [on 20 October], which indicates that the government has no interest in monitoring the progress of SRFI construction’, remarked Anne.
‘Network Rail needs to provide answers immediately. Segro has expressed intentions to purchase land in the very near future. These are critical questions which we’ve never had answers to. Network Rail’s sloppy and vague approach to infrastructure is simply not good enough.’