Another UK freight terminal, another objection
Another rail freight terminal proposal is coming under fire in the southeast of England. Campaigners in the cathedral city of St Albans have said “no thank you” to plans to convert a former airfield into a rail-connected logistics park. Despite the region being the logistics hub of Great Britain, residents in this heavily populated corner of the country have no wish to see warehouse farms replacing agricultural farms in their neighbourhood.
The “Save St Albans: Fight the Freight” group have mounted vocal resistance to the plan by commercial developers SEGRO to site a rail connected logistics facility at nearby Park Street, on land once occupied by a Radlett Airfield. They claim “traffic chaos” will be the result. They propose no alternatives, nor do they suggest a solution to how their Roman-founded town will be supplied in a future of fast-growing delivery logistics.
Council say public consultation now closed
Rail freight is on the front line of a battle not of its making – again. In an escalation of the long-running hostilities over the proposed logistics park at Radlett Airfield, campaigners say they have been “blocked out” of the local authority’s online feeds. However, Hertfordshire County Council replied by saying that the public consultation on the proposals had now closed. They may feel that the courtesy of linking to the campaigners’ website – a page belonging to the Park Street Residents Association – was no longer appropriate.
Whether or not the campaigners have been “blocked” is difficult to confirm, but the reluctance of communities in the south east of England to embrace rail freight development is well documented. It is too early in the process to involve rail freight organisers, but the developers, as is usual in the sector, are reluctant to make any mention on their own website. Nevertheless, on their own online petition, campaigners have attracted around five thousand signatories, seeking a review of the local authority’s intention to sell the necessary land to the developers. A local member of parliament has called the terminal plans “ludicrous and completely unnecessary”.
Campaigners silent on some useful rail development
“The Rail Freight Interchange will bring, daily, thousands of additional [heavy goods vehicles] and other movements to our already congested roads”, say the campaigners. The campaigners did some blocking of their own recently, holding up road traffic on an arterial route around the town as a disruptive protest. According to their submission on a petition website, they say their neighbourhood roads will become less safe to use and the air quality in St Albans will become even more polluted. There is no documentation offered to back up there claims. They also say that the railway routes accessing the site will need upgrading. “The engineering work on the Elstree tunnels, that is needed to accommodate freight wagons on the Thameslink line [lying just south of the site, between St Albans and London], will cause months and months of disruption to busy commuter services.”
However, that claim does not make reference to the alternative approach from the north, through St Albans. The campaigners also make no mention of the East West Rail project, which will serve St Albans directly and, potentially, could provide another route into the rail freight terminal. Speaking to a local newspaper, the petition organiser, Theresa Smith said their efforts had been hampered by the local authority. “If this petition had been published on the county council’s petition website, then it would now have achieved the required number of signatures to present the petition to full council for a discussion and debate”, she said.