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Piggyback costs challenged

THE PIGGYBACK Consortium has submitted evidence to a Parliamentary Transport Select Committee which accuses Railtrack of not looking at all options before it dismissed the West Coast Main Line piggyback scheme in favour of its 'big box' alternative (NCE 26 November).

The claim came in response to Railtrack chief executive Gerald Corbett's assertion that the big box scheme is cheaper and less disruptive. Corbett told MPs two weeks ago that the regauging work required for piggyback would cost around 250M and would reduce WCML to a 'weekend service'.

However, Piggyback Consortium chairman Lord Tony Berkeley argued: 'We have given evidence that shows Railtrack hasn't taken every step to keep the costs down. For example, if it considered a double skin tunnel shield method for tunnel widening work, it could be carried out at night and trains could still run during the day.'

The big box scheme would allow road freight to be carried on the national rail network in 3m high containers on special rail wagons. Piggyback has freight trains carrying whole lorry trailers, up to 4m high, on a single upgraded WCML trunk route.

But Railtrack strongly denied the claims. 'We have paid large sums of money to some of the best civil engineering companies around,' said a source. 'I would be astonished if there were any major engineering techniques we had not thought of.'

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