Railtrack’s costings for a high capacity freight route from the Channel Tunnel to Scotland are too high and will put the project at risk, campaigners claimed this week.
Railtrack made a commitment to work with the Piggyback Consortium to develop the route in its 10-year investment plans. It estimates the cost of improving a route to Scotland via the West Coast Main Line is £310m.
The consortium of 37 freight terminal and train operators, business and local authority groups, puts the cost at £100m. The money is needed to increase headroom in bridges and tunnels to European standards, allowing articulated road trailers to be carried on special rail wagons.
Railtrack’s Network Management Statement estimates that the upgrade could take 1.5 billion gross tonnes of freight, or 275,000 long distance lorry journeys from motorways by 2006-07.
Lord Berkeley, Piggyback Consortium chairman, said: `Things are firming up quite a bit. But finance is still a problem.’ Railtrack would seek a Government grant towards the upgrade, to be paid back on the basis of attaching a value to lorry miles saved. Berkeley said that at a cost of £100m the Government would be confident that Railtrack would be able to pay them back on this basis, but not at £300m.
He questioned whether the West Coast line was the best route because of possible conflict over capacity with passenger trains. `I believe the £310m includes a large sum in compensation for passenger operators.’ He added that Railtrack should consider other routes between the Channel and Crewe.
A spokesman for freight operator English, Welsh and Scottish Railways, said Railtrack was reconsidering its figures. `We’re sure it can be resolved. It’s useful to have a statement whereby they make a commitment about what they’re going to do.’
Railtrack funding, page 13