Plans submitted for controversial rail freight interchange that could take up huge swathe of South Northants countryside

Rail Central have submitted proposals to the Planning Inspectorate to get underway with the Strategic Rail Freight Interchange scheme, which has the potential for 8,000 new jobs.

Monday, 24th September 2018, 6:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th September 2018, 1:04 pm
Ashfield Land and Gazeley have submitted proposals for Rail Central to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).
Ashfield Land and Gazeley have submitted proposals for Rail Central to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).

Rail Central is a proposed Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) where the West Coast Main Line and Northampton Loop Line intersect, adjacent to the A43 and within two miles of Junction 15A of the M1.

If both or either of the Rail Central and Northampton Gateway projects are given the go-ahead by the planning inspectorate much of the Northamptonshire countryside between Milton Malsor, Blisworth, Collingtree and Roade would be occupied by rail depots and warehouses.

Andrew Fisher managing director at Ashfield Land said: “Rail Central occupies the best strategic location in the UK for this type of development – where two railway lines and two major roads come together right in the heart of England.

"To meet the Government’s policy for shifting more freight from road to rail – and to meet customer demands for fast, reliable and sustainable logistics – Rail Central can be a major factor.

"We are pleased to have submitted the proposals and look forward to the next stage in this important planning process.”

The earmarked land falls under the jurisdiction of Northampton Borough Council, South Northamptonshire Council and the county council but the authorities do not have a say on the planning process because the Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges are judged to be in the national interest.

It means the final decision will be made by the Government's Planning Inspectorate (PINs).

Around two years ago residents worried about whether they would lose their homes - should the Rail Central project go ahead - were offered compensation as a property bond. The bonds did not equal the full value of the house, according to locals, but it meant the homeowners would not lose the entire value of the home.

The proposals are for a next-generation Strategic Rail Freight Interchange capable of handling both traditional container freight and the emerging demand for ‘fast freight’ linked to the growth of e-commerce and customer expectations for rapid and next-day delivery.

The proposals include a traditional container handling ‘inter modal’ terminal connecting into the Northampton Loop Line and an ‘express terminal’ connecting directly into the West Coast Main Line.

In addition to the key rail infrastructure, the plans include up to 7.4 million sq ft of rail-connected and rail-served logistics and commercial buildings plus a new ‘grade separated’ roundabout junction with the A43 and key improvements to J15A of the M1.

The project is defined as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) – the proposals have therefore been submitted to PINs in line with the statutory planning process.

Submission of the application follows approximately three years of consultation and development of the proposals in line with technical studies and assessments, plus feedback from a wide range of stakeholders.

PINS will now review the proposals and make a decision on whether they will be accepted for examination.

If approved, the earliest potential start of construction would be in late 2019.

The scheme would be built out in phases in line with market demand, with the key rail infrastructure going in early within the overall build out plans.

Alex Verbeek managing director UK at Gazeley said: “Submitting the application marks nearly three years of scheme design and development, shaped by consultation and through detailed engagement with a wide range of stakeholders.

"Rail Central offers a best in class SRFI scheme, substantial private sector inward investment, approximately 8,000 jobs and a significant boost to UK business and supply chains.

"As the UK looks to be competitive in international markets, Rail Central can play a major part in providing business-supporting infrastructure.”