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Railwatch 081 - October 1999
Backing for new railway
By Roger Skilton
The RDS national executive has formally adopted a resolution supporting, in principle, the ambitious plan by Central Railway PLC for a private freight railway. This railway is intended primarily for carrying lorries on a route linking the north of England and the Midlands with northern Europe, using the channel tunnel.
Built to a loading gauge comparable with that of the channel tunnel, the railway would be capable of carrying lorries and lorry trailers on flat wagons, or two-high containers on well-wagons, between destinations in Great Britain and northern Europe. Following a high-profile open meeting in Leicester organised by the East Midlands branch of RDS and addressed by Robert Raffety, development director of Central Railways, considerable interest was generated within RDS about the project.
This resulted in the freight committee approaching the secretary of East Midlands Branch to organise a working party with the aim of producing a policy statement that the RDS could adopt as its official policy with regard to the project. On 23 January, a working party was convened in Leicester, with representatives from national and branch committees, meeting to put together a resolution for this purpose.
Along with the views of those attending, submissions from other committees and individuals were taken into account, and the resolution, set out below, was unanimously agreed word-by-word by those present. It was placed before the national executive meeting on 13 February which approved it.
The point must be emphasised that in adopting this policy statement, RDS supports, in principle only, the construction of a major new freight railway, and is not committed in any way to giving its approval to all, or indeed any, details of the project as they become known. There will no doubt be a great deal of further debate about the project, when detailed route planning gets under way, with RDS members and others able to put forward views for consideration.
The Policy Statement
The Railway Development Society supports the proposals put forward by Central Railway plc on the grounds that:
1 The Central Railway Project is of major regional, national and international importance.
2 Additional freight capacity is needed. The existing rail network can only accommodate a modest increase in freight traffic. In order to achieve a significant modal shift, substantial new facilities are required.
3 It provides enhanced opportunities for through passenger services from the regions to the continent, and for additional regional services.
4 It offers environmental benefits by enabling a major shift from road to rail. The re-use of extant, derelict and under-used rail infrastructure will minimise green-field encroachment. The project should, on balance, conform with current environmental benefit requirements.
This support, however, is conditional upon:
5 The Central Railway Project being in no way damaging to existing passenger and freight rail services or to their development.
6 The Central Railway being properly integrated with the rail network by links at suitable locations.
A copy of the statement was sent, with the approval of RDS chairman Steve Wilkinson who is also chairman of the freight committee, to Robert Raffety, and paragraphs 1 - 4 are expected to appear in Central Railway's publicity material under the heading Support for Central Railway.
Later Mr Raffety reported that Central Railway has established a framework for consulting local authorities along the route, and is hoping to work with the new regional development agencies.
Many authorities are reported to have made formal resolutions supporting both Central Railway and the principle of transferring freight from road to rail.
Various local studies will be carried out. Parkman consulting engineers have been commissioned to carry out a feasibility study on the West London area.
Central Railway promises continuing full consultation.
More information on the web site: www.central-railway.co.uk
The new Rail Regulator Tom Winsor accused Railtrack in July of failing to set out in its own Network Management Statement a "coherent and deliverable strategy" to cope with freight growth. He wants to know whether there has been any independent assessment of future freight demand. He is also asking Railtrack to explain how its proposals for the loading gauge are consistent with the needs of operators.
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