7 June 1996

SE farmers rail at land hungry freight link

PLANS to construct a new freight railway linking the Midlands to the Channel Tunnel will lead to the loss of more prime agricultural land, south-east farmers warn.

They claim they will lose 858ha (2119 acres) through the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, and that Central Railways plans for a freight route, which includes a new tunnel through the North Downs, will lead to more hardship.

Charles Langton, NFU spokes-man, said farmers were concerned about facing another long drawn-out procedure with Central Railway when many were still in dispute with Union Rail over the loss of land for the CTRL.

But Aubrey Chalmers, Central Railway spokesman, argued the south-east would not be badly hit by the development. "We are committed to using the absolute minimum amount of greenfield sites. Our plans include a loading terminal on the M1/M6 intersection and one on the edge of the M25 at Uxbridge, which has been earmarked for gravel extraction.

"We will use existing transport corridors but having two additional lines from Folkestone. It will be as environmentally friendly as possible," he argued.

With the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill reaching the Lords select committee stage, farmers claim there are still areas which need addressing. Mr Langton said there was concern that Union Rail and its successor body, London and Continental – which will run the line – have too much power to take more land than is needed to construct the CTRL.

The union will also call for a fast disputes procedure for claims and campaign to take claims to London and Continental rather than through contractors and sub-contractors.

There are at least 13 outstanding cases over access bridges that still need to be settled, according to the NFU, which is concerned that the Bill is being pushed through too swiftly. &#42