RAIL FREIGHT operators claimed this week that they had not been properly consulted by Railtrack over their future capacity needs.
Under its commitment to the rail regulator, Railtrack must identify the 'reasonable requirements' of operating companies for inclusion in its Network Management Statement, which outlines the company's 10-year spending plans.
But Graham Smith, planning director of rail operator EWS, claimed that with less than a month before the publication of this year's NMS, freight operators had still not been told whether their requirements for more train paths will be met.
'We are still waiting to see the time tabling of work and have no suggestion yet of how Railtrack would meet our requirements,' he said.
Shifting freight from road to rail is central to the Government's integrated transport strat- egy and also to its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
EWS said it wanted to increase the number of trains on the southern half of the West Coast Main Line from 30 to 115 a day. It also hopes to increase train lengths, raise the axle weight of its trucks from 25.5t to 29t and to electrify freight lines from Birmingham to Nuneaton.
The UK's other freight operator, Freightliner, said it had also submitted detailed plans to Railtrack but had received no confirmation of what would be included in the NMS.
Freightliner hopes to achieve 100% growth by 2008 and has asked Railtrack to eliminate capacity pinch points and to commit to a taller gauge.
A spokeswoman for the company said: 'We hope the NMS will give us an idea of what Railtrack will be doing in terms of freight development but at the moment I couldn't say.'
But a Railtrack spokesman denied it was keeping freight operators in the dark and said on the contrary it was 'trying to have a much closer working relationship' with all its customers.
'We have been through a process of iterative consultation so whatever appears in the NMS should not be a surprise to the freight operators,' he said.