Rail freight not the enemy in battle of St Albans

Aerial image of a rail freight terminal as imagined by Segro
Aerial image of a rail freight terminal as imagined by Segro SEGRO

There is no end in sight to the increasingly acrimonious dispute over the proposed development of a new logistics park and rail freight terminal just north of London. The controversy surrounding the development of the former Radlett Airfield, nearby the historic town of St Albans, into a logistics park with a rail freight terminal, continues to rage on, with protestors seeking legal advice and staging demonstrations against the plans.

The site’s proximity to St Albans, a town with a millennium of history, has been a key concern for local residents. They fear that the proposed 3,5 million square-metre development would exacerbate traffic congestion and have a detrimental impact on the local environment. The Fight the Freight protest group has been leading the charge against the development, arguing that it would destroy greenbelt land and lead to increased pollution and noise levels.

Modal shift still needs last-mile road

Government studies and economic observers are of the opinion that the UK has a severe lack of modern logistics handling – specifically warehousing with transport links. The Government mandated net-zero carbon economy suggests that future logistics handling should switch modality significantly in favour of rail. However, so-called ‘last mile’ operations will most likely still be road-based, and it’s that aspect of the development that the protestors fear will most keenly impact the town and the local area at large

Truck and train at a rail terminal
Even in a net zero economy there will still be a need for last mile by road. Image:  © Professional Images/@ProfImages

The developers of the proposed logistics park are SEGRO, a UK company with logistics development interests across Europe. They have been relatively quiet in the controversy. The main point of contention appears to be over the observation of local democracy. SEGRO has defended its plans, stating that the proposed logistics park would create jobs and boost the local economy. However, they have faced a difficult battle in convincing locals and councillors that the development is in the best interests of the community.

Protestors challenge local government

The local council has been debating the proposal for several years, with objections raised by a number of councillors and local residents. Despite this, planning permission was granted at the UK government level in 2014, leading to further outcry from those opposed to the development. The most recent developments have included the formalisation of the opposition into the ‘Fight the Freight’ group, which came together earlier this year. Since then, the group has engaged legal representation, seeking to overturn the local government decision to sell the necessary land to the developers.

The controversy has also highlighted the importance of rail freight to the net zero carbon agenda, with proponents of the development arguing that it would reduce the number of lorries on the roads and help to cut emissions. However, opponents remain unconvinced, citing concerns about the impact on local wildlife and the potential for increased traffic congestion.

The need to decarbonise the economy is not being contested in this dispute. Protestors, not necessarily expressing their affiliation to Fight the Freight, have been savage in their condemnation of any reporting which they deem unsympathetic to their cause. Rail freight would however appear to be innocent in a war of words between local and national democracy.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

1 comment op “Rail freight not the enemy in battle of St Albans”

Oatsand Barley|22.04.23|12:53

If those who moved into the area when it was an fully functioning air field are ok living next to an airfield in the past, and there also in the protest, that seems very hypocritical. Absolutely ridiculous that those people cant see that fact staring at them. Especially those who moved there when it was an Air field! And an insult to the fact that the mode of rail freight is green solution and a real progress in being less polluting then road.

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Rail freight not the enemy in battle of St Albans | RailFreight.com

Rail freight not the enemy in battle of St Albans

Aerial image of a rail freight terminal as imagined by Segro
Aerial image of a rail freight terminal as imagined by Segro SEGRO

There is no end in sight to the increasingly acrimonious dispute over the proposed development of a new logistics park and rail freight terminal just north of London. The controversy surrounding the development of the former Radlett Airfield, nearby the historic town of St Albans, into a logistics park with a rail freight terminal, continues to rage on, with protestors seeking legal advice and staging demonstrations against the plans.

The site’s proximity to St Albans, a town with a millennium of history, has been a key concern for local residents. They fear that the proposed 3,5 million square-metre development would exacerbate traffic congestion and have a detrimental impact on the local environment. The Fight the Freight protest group has been leading the charge against the development, arguing that it would destroy greenbelt land and lead to increased pollution and noise levels.

Modal shift still needs last-mile road

Government studies and economic observers are of the opinion that the UK has a severe lack of modern logistics handling – specifically warehousing with transport links. The Government mandated net-zero carbon economy suggests that future logistics handling should switch modality significantly in favour of rail. However, so-called ‘last mile’ operations will most likely still be road-based, and it’s that aspect of the development that the protestors fear will most keenly impact the town and the local area at large

Truck and train at a rail terminal
Even in a net zero economy there will still be a need for last mile by road. Image:  © Professional Images/@ProfImages

The developers of the proposed logistics park are SEGRO, a UK company with logistics development interests across Europe. They have been relatively quiet in the controversy. The main point of contention appears to be over the observation of local democracy. SEGRO has defended its plans, stating that the proposed logistics park would create jobs and boost the local economy. However, they have faced a difficult battle in convincing locals and councillors that the development is in the best interests of the community.

Protestors challenge local government

The local council has been debating the proposal for several years, with objections raised by a number of councillors and local residents. Despite this, planning permission was granted at the UK government level in 2014, leading to further outcry from those opposed to the development. The most recent developments have included the formalisation of the opposition into the ‘Fight the Freight’ group, which came together earlier this year. Since then, the group has engaged legal representation, seeking to overturn the local government decision to sell the necessary land to the developers.

The controversy has also highlighted the importance of rail freight to the net zero carbon agenda, with proponents of the development arguing that it would reduce the number of lorries on the roads and help to cut emissions. However, opponents remain unconvinced, citing concerns about the impact on local wildlife and the potential for increased traffic congestion.

The need to decarbonise the economy is not being contested in this dispute. Protestors, not necessarily expressing their affiliation to Fight the Freight, have been savage in their condemnation of any reporting which they deem unsympathetic to their cause. Rail freight would however appear to be innocent in a war of words between local and national democracy.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is RailFreight's UK correspondent.

1 comment op “Rail freight not the enemy in battle of St Albans”

Oatsand Barley|22.04.23|12:53

If those who moved into the area when it was an fully functioning air field are ok living next to an airfield in the past, and there also in the protest, that seems very hypocritical. Absolutely ridiculous that those people cant see that fact staring at them. Especially those who moved there when it was an Air field! And an insult to the fact that the mode of rail freight is green solution and a real progress in being less polluting then road.

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.