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6 May: news in brief

Rail freight hub gets green light in face of protests

TRANSPORT secretary Grant Shapps has granted a Development Consent Order to promoter Four Ashes Ltd for a rail freight hub in Staffordshire. It will be connected to the West Coast Main Line and create up to 8,500 jobs, according to the developers. However, the scheme will take 297 hectares of Green Belt land, and the approval has been given in the face of a long-running protest and a petition which has gained 3,000 signatures. Staffordshire County Council is also opposed to the development, near the M6 and A5. Campaign group Snub the Hub had claimed the development would cause an extra 16 tonnes of CO2 emissions and also mean another 6,300 heavy lorries on local roads each day. In giving his approval, the transport secretary said the national and regional need for the proposed development outweighs any harm’.

Weather-damaged line due to reopen at end of month

NETWORK RAIL says the Cumbrian Coast line should be fully open again by the end of this month, after a three-month repair programme to replace a bridge which was damaged by heavy weather. The collective impact of Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge, which brought high tides, strong winds and heavy rain earlier this year, meant that a bridge at Parton had to be replaced. Since the storms, the line has been blocked between Whitehaven and Workington. While this section was closed the opportunity was taken to upgrade sea defences, which had originally been scheduled for attention later this year. However, the line between Millom and Sellafield will be closed in later June for nine days so that the track can be renewed at Eskmeals, near Ravenglass for Eskdale station.

c2c managing director to retire

THE managing director of c2c Julian Drury is to retire in September, after 40 years in the rail industry. His replacement will be c2c veteran Ben Ackroyd. Ben is presently engineering director at Northern and before that he was the director of West Midlands Metro, where he oversaw the introduction of a replacement fleet of trams. He was previously with c2c between 2011 and 2015, when he was also engineering director. ‘Delighted’ Ben said: ‘Together I want us to play our vital role in helping the local economy bounce back in south Essex and east London.’ Like other franchises, c2c is being run for the time being as a management contract for the Department for Transport as a result of the coronavirus emergency.

Grand Central launches survey as part of plans to return

OPEN access operator Grand Central, which like Hull Trains has suspended its services, is planning its return. Managers of the Arriva-owned company will review the state of play later this month, and in the meantime they have launched a survey which seeks to find out how passengers view the prospect of travelling while some emergency restrictions continue. The survey will use email and social media and will seek views on the implications of social distancing and reasons for travelling. Unusually, the survey will be a ‘rolling’ one, and respondents will be able to change their answers later on.

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