Letters and Articles reproduced from the Welwyn and Hatfield Times

Trains need to be limited to 125mph through village January 5th 2000
Questions have not been answered
Tragedy if well-heeled protestors stop plan for new viaduct
Residents' reaction is backward looking
Village Life - Digswell
We're not all well-heeled. January 12th 2000
What if it were your house January 19th 2000
People want roads not  rail
We are fighting for more than bricks and mortar

Trains need to be limited to 125mph through village

SIR – "Trains are presently limited to 105mph through Welwyn. WARG says that this could increase to 160mph with the proposed new tunnels and viaduct. Railtrack says that speeds will only increase to 125mph. The dispute is important because kinetic energy increases as the square of the speed, so a 160mph train would have 2.4 times the energy and presumably create 2.4 times the noise and vibration, as the same train at 105mph. Moreover the number of trains will almost double. If Railtrack is telling the truth, why does it not give a legally binding and enforceable undertaking that no train will ever exceed 125mph through our area, however much the track is improved.”

R Baldock, St Ives Close, Digswell.

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Questions have not been answered

SIR - In your article December 15 'Railtrack denies ignoring facts' your reporter poses Some of the questions our press release raised. For the of residents, we write to clarify the position as seen by Welwyn Area Residents Group (WARG)

During the Railtrack exhibition some basic issues were raised with Railtrack staff and Consulting Engineers (Ove Arup) to which they had no solution, answer was unavailable, or they were unsure. Therefore WARG raise the first eight of a number of questions? Why have WARG raised these questions? Simple the Railtrack exhibition was not a consultation. It showed what they intend to do to community and environment without giving residents the true facts…..

No details of how they expect to move 300,000 cubic metres of spoil (as quoted by Ove Arup at exhibition), that will be taken out during construction of the tunnels in Digswell and Oakland. This volume translates into at least 30,000 lorry loads of 32/38 tonne type, as confirmed by Ove Arup. He stated they may build an access road to A1(M) or A1000 across Lockley Farm. When questioned on getting spoil to such a road as with the east side widening, they would have to cross live lines, the engineer said they had not thought it through. They then said they could take spoil along the track and through Oaklands area. Imagine 30,000 lorries through Oaklands.

No details of viaduct construction released, even though Railtrack have drawn comparisons with other options.

No mention has been made heavy lifting equipment, movement and storage of bridge sections, plant cement and ballast.

No details of construction site needs for transit workforce, restricted closed roads (possibly A1000 and B1000), while viaduct is built.

No hint to community of 24 hour a day working.

No details of how services to Welwyn North will he maintained during years of construction work - WARG do not believe that Railtrack can work with peak volume trains passing works at speed so services will he subject to delay.

Railtrack consultation assistant, Martin Worley, answers by questioning the number of lorries his own consultant quoted (saying nearly 17,000), rather than answer the direct question @How do Railtrack propose to remove 300,000 meters of soil for the tunnels?

Also Mr. Worley claimed that it was 'absolutely untrue' that work would go on 24 hours a day, then says 'the only construction that would be 24 hours a day would he the underground tunneling work'.

Owen Simmons, Chairman


P0 Box 155 WGC.



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Tragedy if well-heeled protestors stop plan for new viaduct

Sir - The New Labour Government is in favour of it, the Conservatives are in favour of it, the Liberal Democrats are in favour of it, the Green Party are in favour of it and so are Friends of the Earth. In fact it is very difficult to find anybody who is not in favour of it I am' talking about rail travel.

Get freight off, the road and onto the railways we are told. We should all use more public transport, we are informed by serious politicians.

Earnest members of pressure groups tell us that we will be saving the planet if we travel by bus or train.

This being so, I assumed that when Railtrack announced that they were going to get rid of the Bottleneck between WGC and Knebworth and so increase the capacity of the East Coast Mainline, they would be hailed as deliverers and public benefactors.

How wrong I was.

All we have heard are the complaints of the residents of Digswell and a few cautious and carefully non-committal remarks from local politicians.  There has been a serious failure of leadership and the benefits of this scheme to both the local community and nationally have not been properly explained to the public, for which Railtrack themselves are to a large extent to blame.

There are some 40 to 50 houses that will be directly affected by this scheme.  I understand that these people will be fully compensated for their loss as well as others who are affected less seriously.  (I heard it suggested that these people are making so much fuss to increase their compensation).

There are still a number of problems to be sorted out, such as the design of the viaduct and how to dispose of the soil from new cuttings and tunnels, but a start has been made.

There are obvious benefits nationally but this scheme will also help the local community by taking private and freight traffic off the roads; it will also ease the pressure on local housing by making it quicker and easier to travel north.

It would be a tragedy if this scheme which is for the benefit of the country as a whole, was prevented by the actions of a few well organised ands well-heeled members of the bourgeoisie.

T Davidson

Fulling Mill Lane, Welwyn



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Residents' reaction is backward looking

SIR - What a sad "nimbyesque", and back ward looking response from the residents of Welwyn for Railtrack's plan for improved rail services.
I'm sure none of them, have ever driven their cars on roads which required houses to be demolished before they were built, or traveled on railways which despoiled a small amount of countryside.
Lets face It, if previous generations had had their attitude, the only way of traveling around this country would be seated on a cart looking at the backside of a horse.

Name and address supplied


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Village Life - Digswell

DIGSWELL’S fight against Railtrack commenced when a meeting was called by district and parish councilors John Burnell Peter Neville David Elsdon.

It was to inform residents of the preferred option proposed by Railtrack, regarding the widening of the Fast Coast Main line that runs through the village.

Railtrack’s preferred opinion is to build a new double-track railway on the east side of the current one between Digswell Junction, north of WGC, to Woolmer Green This is presently a two- track section.

This new line will devastate houses in Honeymead, St Ives Close, Harmer Green Lane and Sharmans Close. More than 140 people attended the meeting to fill the village hall to capacity, to consider the proposal and to suggest how best to stop the building of a new viaduct, two new tunnels and a new station.

The present building is the only station still in its original Great Northern guise on the ECML Following a heated letting off steam session the meeting settled down to seriously consider the best way to stop this project destroying the environment.


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We're not all well-heeled

SIR – In response to your reader T Davidson’s letter regarding the proposed Railtrack project, I would like to make a few points Firstly, not all the people who are objecting to the plans are ”well-heeled”.

I would suggest that your correspondent comes down to Viaduct Way and Nursery Hill where he/she would see that the people who live in this area are normal working people who are probably in either their first or last homes before retirement.

Those of us who chose to live here were aware of the proximity of the railway, but the thought of it suddenly being 20 or so metres closer is a daunting prospect.

Secondly, a lot of the residents who are directly affected are more concerned about what the area will look like after the work has finished

What will the quality of life be like?

Thirdly, I would ask your correspondent what they felt like when the plans for widening of the A1(M) were announced (this was also a project deemed to be in the national interest).

I am sure they would have been concerned about the impact on Welwyn and how it would affect their property and quality of life.

We all live in a beautiful part of Britain with (probably) a higher standard of than most areas.

We should all pull together to ensure that our local environment and way of life is safeguarded.

I am not against the expansion of the railways but I am also not convinced that the current way forward is the best one.

D M Jones,

Sunningdale Mews,


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What if it were your house

SIR -  Who does Mr. T Davidson think he is accusing the residents of Digswell of complaining and suggesting these residents are making so much fuss to get more compensation.

My daughter is one of the residents whose home will be demolished.  She brought her home two years ago, has spent a lot of time and money on the garden and house, and is devastated she is going to loose her home.

Perhaps Mr. Davidson would be  thinking  differently if Railtrack were going to demolish his home and for him to have his life on hold and be in limbo for two years or so while Railtrack decides when to go ahead.

Mrs. M  Bosley,



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People want roads not rail

SIR - In the WHT of January 5, Mr. Davidson, says that Railtrack's proposed new viaduct and tunnels will "help the local community by taking private and freight traffic off the roads".

The scope for switching traffic from road to rail is limited, particularly if the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority obtains increases in rail fares for new investment.

A BBC study found a Ł17billion gap between the railway companies investment plans and the expected receipts  from fares and  subsides.  Unless fares rise  in real terms taxes will.

Industry and retailers  have adopted a 'just in time' policy that minimizes stocks by  requiring its suppliers to provide same day  or next day delivery.

This and the delivery of rapid perishable, fragile or valuable goods are incompatible with delivery  by road to a first railhead, by rail to a second railhead and then by road to it's destination.

Making the entire journey on the same lorry would be simpler, cheaper, faster, more secure and more reliable.

People value the privacy and convenience of their car.

On three occasions I walked to the exhibition in Ottaway Walk and took the Railtrack bus back.

I was twice the only passenger.

A survey showed that 80 per cent of motorists want higher spending on public transport so that other people would switch leaving the roads clear for themselves.

Demand for more car use is suppressed by crowed roads.

Within months of widening the ECML the reduced road congestion would attract enough new traffic to replace the little that switched to rail.

If any of the extra trains stop at the local station they will increase the pressure for more houses.

More houses will mean more road traffic.

If no extra trains stop, thousands of people near the line from Brookmans Park to Woolmer Green will suffer increased noise without any benefit to the local community.

Mr. R W Baldock,
St. Ives Close,

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We are fighting for more than bricks and mortar.

SIR – I was shocked and astounded at Mr. Fulling Mill Lane of Welwyn’s letter of January 5, 2000 regarding the proposals of Railtrack to widen the tracks between Knebworth and WGC in relation to the residents of Digswell Where did he get his information from?

Certainly not from Railtrack or from the residents of Digswell.

His small-minded slanging match of so-called ”Well-heeled members of the bourgeoisie” made me want to laugh and cry.  Especially since he himself hails from the very heart of so called “bourgeois Welwyn”.

Firstly let me explain that I live in one of the cul-de-sacs to be affected and have an ordinary three bed terraced house My husband and I moved from Glasgow for work reasons (re lack of work in Scotland) and we have two young children.  We certainly do not consider ourselves to fit into the bourgeoisie category above.  We have voted Labour all our life and have slogged our guts out working hard and putting all our efforts into making a nice home for our children.  It may be simply bricks and mortar to you but it is our home!

Being well-heeled or not has no relation to the issues at hand but let me clarify that the 40 or 50 homes which you refer to contain families and retired people with a standard of living comparable to many families living in WGC.  Our community contains a cross-section of people – some well-heeled, some not The Welwyn Area Residents’ Group is a group of people representing our interests.

We have been thrown into limbo because of the proposals of Railtrack and we have a long period of uncertainty ahead as we await the outcome of these plans.  Our homes and way of life in this peaceful village are at stake.  It is no small number of people who will be affected.  Around 200 people’s lives will be disrupted and our homes demolished.  Don’t we have a right to fight for them?

Many more people will suffer due to roads being closed and noise as work is carried out over the years.

Secondly we have every right to ask questions of Railtrack.  We are not naive.  We realise that there is a need to update the rail system.  However there are other viable and less costly options which would not involve demolishing people’s homes.

Why should we trust Railtrack?  Surely in the height of recent problems in safety and service which have been widely documented they should be spending more time improving in these areas.  The current proposals have hardly been well thought out.

Lastly I was appalled at your assumption that compensation plans are well in place and that some residents are making a fuss to increase compensation.  May I state that no amount of compensation can make up for the demolition of one’s home – our objective is not to get compensation but to save our home.

Does Mr. Davidson have any idea of what Digswell residents in particular will have to suffer amidst destruction of homes, stress from constant noise, machinery and workmen and the volume of high speed trains?

I suggest that before he writes such a scathing attack on the residents of Digswell that he gets his facts straight both regarding residents and WARG and secondly regarding Railtrack and their bumbling, blundering hastily thrown together plans.

Mrs. Susan Hoey,



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