Railtrack in talks

The Government is in talks with Railtrack that could lead to millions of pound of grants being made available to fund a scheme to increase the amount of freight carried on the UK's rail network, it emerged yesterday. As many as 400,000 lorries could be taken off the roads if a railfreight express route from Scotland and the Channel Tunnel is upgraded to allow it to carry "piggyback" wagons.

The latest move came after Railtrack, which owns and maintains Britain's railway tracks, reached an agreement over the cost of the extra work needed for the West Coast Main Line, set at pounds 220m, to raise the height of hundreds of tunnels and bridges to cater for the piggyback trains, whose wagons can easily be switched from road to rail.

A spokeswoman for the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions said talks were ongoing but could not confirm a report Railtrack was seeking grants of up to pounds 150m. "This is certainly the sort of thing the Government wants to do at the moment. We want to see more freight being moved by rail," she said.