RAILTRACK IS to develop land for housing in north London that critics insist must be preserved if the government's rail freight targets are to be met.
Lobby group the Rail Freight Group (RFG) claims that the site at Cricklewood is the only one left in north London which could be developed into a large freight interchange. More interchanges are needed to help meet the 80% growth target highlighted in the 10 year plan for transport.
Part of the site is currently used as a freight terminal and waste disposal facility. It is planned to move these to one part of the site and develop the rest for housing, leisure and commercial uses.
Changes to Railtrack's operating licence will stop Railtrack selling off any land without the Rail Regulator's consent.
But the proposed changes, still being examined by lawyers, are not yet in effect. A Rail Regulator spokesman said the case 'clearly demonstrates the need' for the new licence condition.
A spokesman for the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) said that it was in talks with Railtrack to preserve rail freight on the site, as well as possible future freight expansion.
But he added that the SRA had no legal power to halt the development.
Railtrack insists that the site is not suitable for development as a freight interchange because of its proximity to housing. A spokesman said Railtrack was developing sites away from north London and that the site had never been identified as strategic freight interchange.
But RFG chairman Tony Berkeley insisted the move was short sighted. He said that one operator had already been told that there was no longer space to accommodate its operations.