27 January 2000 | Elizabeth Bellamy
Car manufacturer Rover may receive the go-ahead next month to build a rail link for inbound and outbound logistics at its Solihull plant, writes Elizabeth Bellamy.
Deputy prime minister John Prescott has until 11 February to respond to Rover's application for the 4km rail link. Approval could mean the project starts straight away, according to a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.
The £40 million track would connect Solihull to the West Coast Main Line. But the company would not see a quick return on this investment, said a Rover spokesman.
Transferring the plant's logistics from road to rail would "ease the blight on the local road system", he added. "A heavy vehicle passes through our gates every seven seconds."
Transporting cars by rail would also cut down on the amount of times they were handled and thereby reduce product damage.
Rover already has rail links at its Longbridge, Oxford and Swindon sites, but these were "not being used to their full advantage", said the spokesman. The Longbridge link does not allow trains to be loaded to their capacity, he added. All plants use a combination of road and rail logistics.
Last year's transport white paper pushed for greater use of rail freight to reduce road congestion and pollution, but the rail regulator urged caution.
"We must make sure that logistics bottle necks on the roads are not replicated on rail," said a spokesman for the regulator. He said a lack of space on the Coventry rail corridor for freight traffic was a good example of this.