Rail stations on move as sites are sold

Rail stations are being moved out of town centres so that their former sites can be sold to property developers by Railtrack, Labour claimed yesterday.

And a Labour peer also said that Railtrack was selling off sites for development which could still be used for attracting freight back onto rail.

Clare Short, the shadow Transport Secretary, has identified half a dozen rail stations which are "sliding out of town" in order to enable Railtrack to sell land to developers. In Wrexham, north Wales, for example, there is a plan to move the station 200m out of the town centre while at Windsor & Eton central, the plan is to shift the station back up the line for 100 metres. Similar plans have been carried out at Merthy Tydfil and there are similar schemes to move the stations at Aberystwyth, Lowestoft and Staines.

Labour is particularly angry that most of the profits from these developments can be retained by Railtrack. Only a quarter of the proceeds have to be passed on to reduce track access charges for train operators while Railtrack retains 75 per cent.

In the statement that will set out Labour's plans for Railtrack in the share prospectus to be issued early next month, Labour will say that 100 per cent of such receipts should stay in the industry. Ms Short said: "Labour will ensure that all proceeds of property sales will go back into the railway for re-investment." She accused Railtrack of "planning to carve up rail land".

A Railtrack spokesman said last night that all these planned developments were for the benefit of passengers: "They have all been agreed by local authorities, and the train operating companies are also happy about them. While Railtrack will, of course, benefit, all these schemes also result in improved stations and other facilities."

Lord Berkeley, who recently joined Labour from the cross-benches, has uncovered half a dozen sites which he says are supposed to be protected but are being sold by Railtrack. He told The Independent : "This is being done in a very clever way. They are selling small bits of these parcels of land to supermarkets and the like, rather than the whole site which they are prevented from doing."

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