The proposed construction of a DIY store on the trackbed of the former Carlisle avoiding lines would block expansion of both freight and passenger services between England and Scotland.

The Carlisle goods lines provided an important alternative route to the congested Carlisle station area for freight trains between England and Scotland, via both the West Coast main line through Lockerbie and the Glasgow and South Western route through Dumfries.

The Carlisle goods railway, which has already been slightly encroached on (although not fully blocked) elsewhere in Carlisle could still be used for possible future reopening to rail traffic.

Rail freight is expected to expand by 30% over the next 10 years and Carlisle will become an obvious pressure point, requiring the reinstatement of the Carlisle goods lines.

There are a large number of suitable alternative sites where the proposed retail development could be built. There is, however, no suitable, alternative route available for additional rail freight capacity through Carlisle.

A report, commissioned by the would-be developer - Consolidated Property Northstar Ltd -from consultants Oscar Faber, suggests that widening the existing lines between Carlisle Station and Caldew Junction, could potentially increase rail capacity through the centre of Carlisle. However, this proposal does not solve the problems of conflicting train movements in the station area itself.

Particularly affected would be freight trains from the Tyne Valley and Settle and Carlisle lines needing to cross the West Coast main line in order to access Kingmoor yard.

The Carlisle Goods lines are also the best way to create a piggyback route between the Channel Tunnel and Scotland. The Oscar Faber report does not address this need.

The Oscar Faber report mentions the proposed increase in the number of Virgin West Coast and CrossCountry trains along the West Coast main line but takes no account of possible increases in train services by other passenger companies.

Dumfries and Galloway Council is pressing for a Borderer Express which could result in an extra one or two express trains per hour between London Road Junction and Gretna Junction, all of which would pass through Carlisle station.

In addition Dumfries and Galloway Council and Strathclyde Passenger Transport want extra local trains on the West Coast main line between Carlisle and Glasgow via Lockerbie.

There are similar proposals for new local services south of Carlisle which would also increase the number of train movements in the station area.

The Oscar Faber report also seems to ignore the possible increase in non-Virgin passenger services, following the future refranchising of ScotRail and the creation of the new Northern England rail franchise.

There is still time for people to object to the plans.

Details of the planning application for the retail development are available from: John Hamer, Principal Assistant Development Control Environment and Development, Carlisle City Council, Civic Centre, Carlisle CA3 8QG Tel: 01228 817172