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Rail bosses are 'holding us to ransom'!

Network Rail has been accused of “holding us to ransom” over the planned Grantham southern relief road as the scheme is held up.

The manager of the country’s rail infrastructure has come under fire as a public inquiry into the £80 million road is announced.

The inquiry will begin on Tuesday, December 4 at the Jubilee Church Life Centre in Grantham.

Despite the inquiry holding up the scheme, council chiefs hope work can start on the relief road early next year.

Rail bosses were under attack during last week’s full meeting of South Kesteven District Council.

Lincrest Conservative councillor Peter Stephens wanted to know what was happening with the bypass.

He said: “Network Rail is holding us to ransom. There’s various issues over compensation.”

SKDC leader Matthew Lee said he would not use such language, but he accepted others might.

He said: “Network Rail has put in a standard objection. That’s a way it can manage these issues. It needs to be overcome.”

He added: “Everything is being done. It’s frustrating as a lot of work we want to have done is being held up.”

The following day, Lincolnshire County Council announced the public inquiry.

Coun Richard Davies, executive member for highways, said: “In the end, we were successful in getting one of the five objections withdrawn – the one from a member of the public relating to environmental concerns.

“However, despite our best efforts, we haven’t been able to reach agreements with Network Rail, Zurich, Grantham Motor Company and Western Power Distribution in time to avoid an inquiry.

“As a result, we’ll be stating our case for Grantham’s southern relief road starting on December 4.”

The inquiry will last up to six days and will provide a “robust scrutiny” of all aspects of the Grantham southern relief road project, including hearing evidence from technical experts, supporters and objectors.

Coun Davies added: “We’d hoped a public inquiry wouldn’t be necessary, but here we are.

“The biggest problem with the situation is that none of what we’re talking about doing is a surprise, particularly for Network Rail.

“I think everyone agrees that the relief road is an absolute necessity, and it’s disappointing that a taxpayer-funded service can have such a detrimental effect on getting it built.

“Because we knew an inquiry was a very real possibility, in addition to negotiations with the objectors, the project team has been working tirelessly to prepare everything we need to reach a successful outcome during an inquiry.

“As a result, I’m confident that work on the rest of the relief road will start in early 2019.”

The bypass project - to link the A52 at Somerby Hill to the A1 - is being led by the county council and supported by the district council, Greater Lincolnshire LEP, Highways England, Homes and Communities Agency and local businesses.

For more information, visit www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/majorprojects

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