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'Simply untrue': War of words over Bescot sleeper factory

By Megan Archer | Walsall | Transport | Published:

Bosses at Network Rail say protesters’ complaints about the controversial Bescot sleeper factory are “simply untrue”.

An artist's impression of the planned sleeper factory next to the M6

Rail chiefs say that campaigners are “grossly exaggerating” elements of the plans for the factory, which would be built alongside the M6.

Network Rail says the facility, at the Bescot sidings freight yard on the Wednesbury and Walsall border, will create 100 jobs and see 600,000 rail sleepers created each year.

But the plans have been met with fierce opposition from neighbours who say there will be high levels of pollution and an extra 70,000 lorry movements a year.

A campaign against the plans was launched last year

Network Rail says there will only be about 8,000 lorry movements per year and that pollution fears are “unfounded”.

They have been locked in a battle with campaigners, from Wednesbury Action Group, ever since plans were released – with neither side showing any sign of letting up.

'Grossly exaggerated'

A Network Rail spokesman said: “Many of the negative claims by campaigners about the proposed sleeper facility at Bescot are simply untrue.

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"Fear of silica dust from the facility in the local air is unfounded and is explained in our detailed planning application.

"Forecast lorry movements are also grossly exaggerated – they will total between 8,000 and 13,000 per year – not 70,000.

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"After engagement with local people we changed our plans to include a new relief road to minimise the impact on nearby homes and the local road network.

"Our plans will bring 100 jobs to the local area and will revive a century old railway yard.

"With the region’s proud manufacturing history, these sleepers, made in the Midlands, will help ensure a reliable, modern railway for passengers and freight across Britain’s railway network for generations to come."

'Load of rubbish'

But Carol White, one of the spokesmen for the action group, said Network Rail was spouting "a load of rubbish".

She said: "If they're going to fix 600,000 sleepers the amount of sand and aggregate that will be used to manufacture will all be coming by road. And it's not going to fit in the small amount of vehicles they have said.

"And there are other sleeper factories, in Germany and Doncaster and Washwood Heath, which only employ about 50 people - so why do Network Rail think they're employing 100?

"Also they've told us at meetings they're just going to transfer the employees from Washwood Heath, so it won't be creating jobs.

"Also there are 21 schools within one mile of Bescot Sidings - all these children are going to be breathing in this dust created by the factory at its highest concentration."

Network Rail submitted the planning application for the sleeper factory in July this year.

Megan Archer

By Megan Archer
Chief Reporter - @MeganA_Star

Chief Reporter with the Express & Star. Give me a call on 01902 319363 or email megan.archer@expressandstar.co.uk.

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