So Radlett is to receive a rail freight terminal.
About time too. Its planning application has been wending its way through a tortuous process for most of the last ten years. It’s been five years since a public inquiry considered the matter.
Close to St Albans, the facility will be able to supply London and the South East and strengthen rail freight’s place in Britain’s economy. It should also make it easier to switch freight from road to rail.
As a country, we are very poor at using rail freight to distribute goods. Sure, we shift plenty of coal and containers but rail is badly placed to penetrate city centres.
It was not always like this. Take a look at an old map of King’s Cross in London and marvel at the extensive freight facilities just north of the passenger station. (Indeed, you can go one better and walk round them as they enter a new lease of life with a fashion college and other facilities). Just a little bit west, the British Library occupies the site of Somers Town goods yard, which was another extensive facility.
Fast forward to a recent demonstration by Colas Rail of modern freight distribution. An electric locomotive hauled converted motorail wagons from Daventry to Euston late one night. From there, the roll cages aboard could transfer to lorries for the last mile to surrounding shops. Given recent advances in electric vehicle technology, it’s not impossible to picture fleets of electric lorries silently gliding this last mile.
Euston might be much-maligned as a station but it’s one of very few left that retain road access to the platform edge. We should think very carefully about removing this facility as plans to redevelop the station for HS2 take shape.