Government Announces Decision on the Central Railway Freight Line

03 August 2005

Transport Minister Kim Howells today (25 March 2004) announced that the Government has decided not to support Central Railway’s proposal for a Parliamentary Bill for a dedicated freight line that would link the Channel Tunnel with the North West of England.


ASLEF and the TUC supported the development of a new freight corridor linking the North West with the channel tunnel. Although ASLEF would prefer this to be in the public sector the overall initiative of a new line needed to be promoted. The modernisation of Britain’s transport infrastructure is a top national priority. This new link to Europe had the potential to create jobs in construction and transport sectors as well as boosting our manufacturing sector across different regions of the UK.


ASLEF remains committed to a Central Railway corridor


The Bill would have sought powers to build a £10 billion freight line that would have run from the Channel Tunnel to Liverpool, routed south of London and via Sheffield.


The main reason for the decision is that Central Railway has not demonstrated to the Government"s satisfaction that it would be able to gain the necessary financial backing to build and run the line.


Central Railway have argued that the line could be totally privately funded. But if the project ran into difficulties the Government would come under intense pressure to intervene with taxpayers’ money.


Kim Howells made clear that the Government is committed to development of the rail network. Improvements to the West Coast Main Line and the building of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link will both provide substantial extra capacity for freight traffic and will support further investment and regeneration in the South East and North West.


In a statement to the House of Commons, Kim Howells said:


"While such a scheme could make a contribution to increasing the carriage of freight by rail, Central Railway has not substantiated the likely financeability of the proposals.


"The promoters have received expressions of interest from a number of possible debt providers but these are generally substantially caveated. Neither have they demonstrated that the significant amount of equity finance would be forthcoming.


"Central Railway has claimed that no call would be made on the public purse. However once the Government agreed to promote a Bill, inescapably it would be taken to be backing the project.


"Should initial finance not be raised, or the project run into financial difficulty once work was under way, the Government of the day could not escape intense pressure to intervene. The Government has therefore concluded that it cannot promote a Bill against such risks."

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