After Wilbury Hills Road residents contacted me raising their concerns about the number of lorries which are planned to drive down their road to build the new Hitchin flyover, I raised the issue with the Minister for Transport. I also asked a number of questions in the House of Commons to try to find out whether it wouldn’t make more sense to deliver the building materials by rail instead of by road. Here are the three questions I asked, and the response I received from the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport:
Mr. Heald: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport (1) what his policy is on the use of road haulage in place of rail haulage for movement of bulk materials for rail infrastructure works;
(2) what recent assessment he has made of the environmental impact of (a) road and (b) rail haulage for movement of bulk materials for rail infrastructure works;
(3) what discussions his Department has had with Network Rail on the merits of (a) road and (b) rail haulage for movement of bulk materials for rail infrastructure works.
Chris Mole: The movement of bulk materials for rail infrastructure works is an operational matter for Network Rail.
As you can see this is a very disappointing reply and an abdication of the Minister’s responsibilities. The idea that the Transport Department does not take a view on the increased environmental cost of road movements and does not promote rail in this modern era of road congestion and global warming is truly alarming. It shows just how “unjoined-up” Government thinking is, when the Environment Minister is constantly stressing the importance of reducing CO2 emissions and the Transport Minister is happily supporting more road and air transport.