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RAILTRACK AND the Highways Agency signed a new deal this week halting unproductive competition between them.

The agreement will see the two working together to tackle road congestion. By identifying parallel rail and road corridors, passengers and freight will be encouraged to transfer from road to rail.

A recent forecast of unsustainable freight and traffic flows over the next 20 years prompted the tie-up. The partnership will promote road-rail freight terminals and multi-modal passenger interchanges. Railtrack will identify suitable sites for stations with easy access from trunk roads.

The Highways Agency expects to minimise new trunk road construction in the future, and will focus instead on maintaining and maximising the use of existing infrastructure. Freeing road space by encouraging better use of the rail network fits this new goal.

Railtrack is also keen to increase the amount of freight moved by rail. Business development manager Diana Linnett said: 'We both have our own funding schemes, and if they are put together they will be more efficient. We'll be looking for best business.'

A series of pilot projects is being developed, starting with an initiative to reduce road traffic between Chelmsford and London. Drivers will be encouraged to ditch their cars with the promise of shorter journey times by rail.

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