Planning permission has been granted for the Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) at Howbury Park in South East London.

Intermodality has been closely involved in the project with developers ProLogis since 2003. Planning permission was granted after a Public Inquiry in Spring 2007, where Intermodality presented the case for the rail aspects of the scheme, as a critical component of the proposals.

Whilst government has sought to achieve 3-4 of these strategic interchanges around London for several years, none exist at present, and it is generally acknowledged that finding sites for such sites would be a challenge. The last attempt to develop a site, at Colnbrook in West London , failed to secure permission in 2001. Six years on, the pressure was therefore on ProLogis and the project team to make the case for Howbury Park .

Intermodality’s Managing Director, Nick Gallop said:

“I am delighted that planning permission has been granted for London ’s first Strategic Rail Freight Interchange, and the support given to the project by Network Rail, EWS, the GLA, TfL and Kent County Council.”

Although the scheme is to be built on Green Belt land, the outcome of the Public Inquiry and the decision by the Secretary of State has acknowledged the very special circumstances justifying its development, not least the desire of Government to shift freight from road to rail.

Construction work on the new interchange is anticipated to start this year, with the site designed to cater for up to 12 trains per day, moving freight directly into the 2 million square feet (198,000 square metres) of rail-linked warehousing, and through the on-site intermodal terminal, available to occupiers on site and to other companies in the surrounding area.

The scheme is being backed by a package of measures to promote the facility to local business, and support more sustainable distribution measures across the Thames Gateway.

Howbury Park is expected to attract traffic from retailers, manufacturers, shipping lines and distribution companies, from other parts of Great Britain , mainland Europe and the major ports. Rail can then be used for longer-distance movement of freight to and from the site, with road haulage then used for final collection and delivery in the surrounding area.

Howbury Park represents a first critical step to offering London and the South East the modern interchange facilities available across other parts of Britain and mainland Europe , but as Nick Gallop points out:

“Whilst we celebrate the decision on Howbury Park , this is not the end of the story, as government still seeks 3 to 4 of these interchanges around the M25, and further work will be needed to ensure this network is achieved, given the acute lack of modern interchange facilities to serve London and the Greater South East region.”

Key services provided by Intermodality to ProLogis on the project have included:

  • Management of all rail-related aspects of the project
  • Market research, demand and capacity assessment
  • Liaison with Transport for London , Network Rail and other railway stakeholders
  • Development of the rail components of the planning application and ‘need’ argument
  • Expert witness at the Public Inquiry.