Stop Roxhill

Policy Background

Successive governments have said that Rail Freight Interchanges (RFI's) are needed in the public interest, for the sake of our national economy and to reduce polluting road freight miles. And yet they have left it to private developers to suggest where they should be located.

It is not clear what a 'Strategic' RFI (SRFI) actually is and they are not defined in policy terms.

What is an SRFI?

An SFRI is defined by Government as a “large multi-purpose rail freight interchange and distribution centre linked into both the rail and trunk road system. It has rail-served warehousing and container handling facilities and may also include manufacturing and processing activities”.

How are they approved?

If the proposal falls within the criteria set by the Planning Act 2008 (eg a site area of at least 60 hectares, to be connected to national rail network and capable of handling (a) consignments of goods from more than one consignor and to more than one consignee, and (b) at least four goods trains a day), it is classed as a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) and is decided by the relevant Secretary of State on the advice of the Planning Inspectorate.

The only SRFI's so far approved as NSIP's have been Prologis’ Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (3 July 2014) and Roxhill’s East Midlands Gateway Rail Freight Interchange  (12 January 2016)

 The following are still at the pre-application stage:


 East Midlands Intermodal Park -  Goodman’s

 Northampton Gateway Rail Freight Interchange - Roxhill’s

 Rail Central Strategic Rail Freight Interchange  (also Northampton)  - Ashfield Land

 West Midlands Interchange -  Four Ashes 

An NSIP can include ‘associated development’. For applications made from 6 April 2017, up to around 500 homes may also be included as part of the development.

However, If a proposal does not meet the NSIP criteria, it will be dealt with as a normal planning application.

Why are RFI's  needed?

The Government has set out the need for RFI's in its National Policy Statement as follows:

“2.53 The Government’s vision for transport is for a low carbon sustainable transport system that is an engine for economic growth, but is also safer and improves the quality of life in our communities. The Government therefore believes it is important to facilitate the development of the intermodal rail freight industry. The transfer of freight from road to rail has an important part to play in a low carbon economy and in helping to address climate change.

 “2.56 The Government has concluded that there is a compelling need for an expanded network of SRFIs. It is important that SRFIs are located near the business markets they will serve – major urban centres, or groups of centres – and are linked to key supply chain routes.

2.57 Existing operational SRFIs and other intermodal RFIs are situated predominantly in the Midlands and the North. Conversely, in London and the South East, away from the deep-sea ports, most intermodal RFI and rail-connected warehousing is on a small scale and/or poorly located in relation to the main urban areas.

2.58 This means that SRFI capacity needs to be provided at a wide range of locations, to provide the flexibility needed to match the changing demands of the market, possibly with traffic moving from existing RFI to new larger facilities. There is a particular challenge in expanding rail freight interchanges serving London and the South East.


So what is the strategy behind the Policy?

There is little strategy contained in the Governments National Networks Policy Statement. There are references to a need in London and the South East but does not say precisely where RFI’s should be located. Previous policy statements had suggested that ‘suitable sites are likely to be located where the key road and rail radials intersect with the M25’

At the moment it is left to private sector developers to identify sites that they believe meet the criteria and will attract warehouse operators. But these may not necessarily be Rail Freight operators and this has led to fears of a 'trojan horse' scenario with large warehouse parks masquerading as Rail Freight Interchanges simply to get planning consent. 

Increasingly, industry experts believe that because of changing trends in international freight transport, the government should review its priorities and take a genuinely strategic approach as to where RFI's should be located.