Rail freight: would we demolish homes
30 November, 2018
• F STURGE replies to my comments about rail freight, (Reopening rail stations is not a thing of the past, November 23). I did not say that Smithfield had been built on for housing, like so many other goods yards have.
The problem with serving Smithfield Market is that the rail connections have long gone. For instance, the connections between National Rail at Paddington and London Underground, where the meat trains came onto the underground system, no longer exist.
Also, the connection between the underground and the widened lines at the west end of Farringdon Station have been taken out to make space for longer platforms for Thameslink trains. Likewise, where they continued to Moorgate they have been removed for longer platforms as well.
As far as I know, the remaining stubs between Farringdon and Moorgate are going to be reconnected and used by Transport for London as siding space for its trains. Also, the connections where empty trains shunted onto the westbound underground track at Barbican were removed many years ago.
It would probably be totally uneconomic to provide a small fleet of locos and rolling stock for perhaps one loaded and one empty trip per day. The trains could only operate outside the morning and afternoon rush hour. Drivers would need specific route knowledge as well.
The frequency of the three lines, the Circle, Hammersmith and City, and the Metropolitan, is too close to allow for the occasional freight to mix in with them.
Another problem that could occur is shunting in reverse onto the westbound track at the Barbican would need a shunting move approved by London Underground. It would need a brake van at what would be the rear to allow for a brake application, when propelling a train as opposed to pulling a train.
Where goods yards and railway lines and stations have been sold off as surplus to requirements years ago, would the local authorities permit housing or other building put up in their place to be torn down and lines reinstated? After all, what happened 200 years or so ago to build a railway line – the wholesale destruction of housing – is another thing.
So there is no easy answer. Yes, I would like to see fewer heavy goods vehicles on the roads, especially in London, but unless a government of whichever colour was in a position to endorse wholesale demolition of houses built on old railway lands, I can’t see it happening.