Express & Star

Railway sleeper factory plan sidelined after Network Rail scrap appeal

A huge railway sleeper factory will not be built next to the M6 after Network Rail decided against appealing the refusal of its plan.

What the Bescot railway sleeper factory would have looked like. Image: Network Rail

Network Rail wanted to build the factory to produce 600,000 sleepers a year on the Bescot sidings freight yard on the Wednesbury and Walsall border.

But the scheme was met with fierce opposition from residents, while prominent politicians including former MP Tom Watson had called for it to be scrapped.

Sandwell Council's planning committee refused planning permission for the factory to be built in December.

But campaigners had feared Network Rail would appeal the decision to The Planning Inspectorate.

The proposed site at Bescot sidings beside the M6 for a new Network Rail sleeper factory

Today company confirmed that it will not go to the independent planning inspector and will bow look to identify an alternative site.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “After careful consideration, Network Rail won’t be appealing Sandwell Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for a concrete sleeper facility at Bescot.

“Our priority now is to identify an alternative site to produce sleepers so we can continue to maintain and keep the national rail network safe.”

Campaigners fought a two-year battle against the factory which would have produced 600,000 sleepers a year.

An alternative view of the proposed factory site. Image: Network Rail

Councillor Simon Hackett said despite 800 formal objections and a petition with 6,000 signatures, residents feared the company would  appeal in an effort to overturn the council’s decision.

He said: “When this decision was rejected by the planning committee in December I asked Network Rail’s representatives at the meeting if they would respect the decision of councillors and the local people but they refused to answer.

“We have been on tenterhooks since waiting to see if they would appeal, so this news is wonderful.

“This is the biggest local campaign I’ve ever been involved in and the work of the campaigners and The People of Wednesbury Say NO to Network Rail  group over two years has been amazing and shows communities can win when they work together.”

Objectors had claimed the factory would cause traffic chaos on local roads fearing there would be an extra 75,000 vehicle movements in and out of the area.

Campaigners had voiced strong opposition to the plans for the Bescot rail sleeper factory

In addition, they feared silica used in the cement for sleepers was a serious health hazard.

Carol White, a spokesperson for the campaign group said: “I’m over the moon.  The health implications that factory would have brought, not only for the residents but for young people who go to schools around here, would have been horrendous.”

Network Rail had said the factory was needed to meet the industry’s demand for a million sleepers a year and would replace the present facility in Washwood Heath, Birmingham which is to close to make way for HS2.

In December, Sandwell Council threw out a planning application after council officers said the plans did not comply with local development strategies and ‘would result in an unacceptable level of heavy goods vehicle movements and other associated traffic movements over a prolonged period’.