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Government 'must stump up' to get more freight on rail

GOVERNMENT CASH is vital to supplement Railtrack's own expenditure if rail is ever going to provide an alternative freight route to roads, according to Railtrack freight director Robin Gisby.

He claimed that any public spending to increase rail freight capacity would give much better value than trying to get more out of the existing road space.

Gisby was speaking at a meeting of the Railway Civil Engineers' Association at the House of Commons last week. His views came just three weeks after Railtrack rejected the pounds 250M West Coast Main Line piggyback scheme which was to have been half funded by Government (NCE 8 October).

Although the WCML scheme was ruled out because the line was already overcapacity, Gisby insisted that for the cost of 'an extra lane on a few miles of motorway' rail could give much better benefits for the country. In contrast to railways, there were few options to increase capacity on the road network.

Gisby said that there were many other projects being looked at to service the increasing demand for freight, including enhancing the gauge all the way from the Channel Tunnel to Scotland. Whichever were taken forward would certainly require government money, he said.

Gisby added that while the WCML was vital, finding alternatives, such as making more use of the Midland Main Line, was also a priority. But he thought a dedicated freight route was unlikely. 'The trick we have to pull off is to make a number of routes much better for freight.'

Other speakers, however, spoke in favour of the proposed private Central Railway which could take on this role to ease congestion.

Lisa Russell

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