BUSINESS bosses have hailed a rail agreement which will take thousands of tonnes of freight off Selby district's roads.

Bosses at British Gypsum, in Sherburn-in-Elmet, have welcomed the agreement between rail haulers EWS and UK Coal, which owns the Gascoigne Wood rail head.

The deal will see 11,000 lorry movements consigned to history, as EWS transports gypsum from Drax Power Station to the Sherburn plant by train.

The gypsum, used in the manufacture of plasterboard, is a by-product of coal burning.

EWS had been considering using Milford Yard rail sidings, just outside South Milford - much to the chagrin of residents living behind the yard, who said it was unsuitable.

EWS said UK Coal was demanding too high a price for use of the Gascoigne Wood rail head, which served the former Selby mine complex.

Now an agreement has been reached. "This is an excellent solution for all involved," said John Colley, the chairman of British Gypsum.

"The move to rail reduces the road miles significantly, providing environmental benefits. It ensures smooth supply to our Sherburn plant - a significant employer in the area.

"At British Gypsum we recently increased our workforce at Sherburn as part of a £65 million investment in the plant.

"The company is highly committed to this location and we are keen to foster ongoing relationships with our neighbours and local residents."

A UK Coal spokesman confirmed EWS would be the first company to use Gascoigne Wood since the Selby mine complex closed.

He said: "We hope this will be the first of a number of companies using the rail network as part of the regeneration of Gascoigne Wood."

The move to use Gascoigne Wood was also welcomed by Selby MP John Grogan.

He said: "I'd like to congratulate the three companies involved for listening to local opinion and going the extra mile to find a more suitable solution.

"Gascoigne Wood was a railway marshalling yard before it was a coal mine and I think it's a much more appropriate site.

"I very much hope that British Gypsum will continue to be one of the success stories of the Selby economy and, in the long term, there is the possibility that they may have a rail head directly opposite the factory for the transportation of gypsum."