Memorandum by Freightliner (P 04)
PORTS AND RAILWAYS
Freightliner Ltd is the UK's largest carrier
of containers by rail to and from Britain's ports. 650,000 containers
(more than one million twenty foot equivalent units) were carried
in the 12 months ending 31 March 2000, representing approximately
24 per cent of the intercontinental containers entering the country.
As rail is not at present competitive between the major container
ports on the South and East coasts and the London and South East
region of the country, Freightliner's share of the market increases
significantly with the distance travelled to the North; we estimate
that approximately 60 per cent of Scotland's intercontinental
traffic is conveyed by us.
Freightliner's volumes have risen by approximately
50 per cent since privatisation in 1996, and we are keen to continue
to expand our share of a growing market.
2. BENEFITS OF
The Government in its transport white paper
and in the Ten Year Transport Plan has endorsed the view
that rail transport is in general environmentally beneficial,
making substantial contributions to reductions in atmospheric
pollution (producing, for instance, 20 per cent of the carbon
dioxide per payload tonne when compared with a modern lorry),
using less land and producing less noise pollution when compared
with road transport. Since by definition a change of transport
mode must happen at a port, maritime traffic is particularly well
suited to rail transport and there are economic advantages to
be gained by carrying large volumes of containers to and from
inland commercial and residential areas by rail.
The history of the development of container
handling facilities at Britain's major intercontinental container
portsFelixstowe, Southampton, Tilbury, Thamesport and Liverpoolhas
been one of organic growth over the last 35 years, but this has
happened without particular reference to any strategic plan for
the development of port or inland rail handling facilities, nor
to the nature and capacity of the rail network nationally. Thus,
for instance, the location of the rail terminals at Felixstowe
and Southampton is not ideal, resulting in significant transfer
costs at the ports, whilst some inland areasnotably Tyneside
and the East Midlandsare remote from productive rail terminals.
There are likely to be significant difficulties in handling the
size and number of the trains we are forecasting to run on the
Railtrack network, and penetration may be affected by gaps in
the terminal network.
We believe that some of these issues will be
addressed in the forthcoming freight strategy to be published
by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), but we must emphasise the
importance of the following:
3.1 The provision of loading gauge capacity
for the increasingly common 9 foot 6 inches high container.
3.2 Capacity on the Railtrack network to
allow the passage of more trains as volume increases.
3.3 Development of additional inland terminal
capacity at key locations.
Providing solutions to these problems will require
substantial capital investment, and it is vital that funds should
not be diverted to other issues arising from Railtrack's current
problems or the development of those passenger leisure journey
opportunities which may not represent the best value to the economy.
When permitted to do so by Railtrack, Freightliner
has demonstrated that it can deliver the quality of service and
responsiveness by rail which encourages the shipping lines and
other customers to make substantial increases in the number of
containers carried by rail. The company intends to continue to
procure major investment in the equipment needed to do thissome
£48 million pounds worth of such investment has already been
put in placebut it is not possible for us to finance the
necessary network infrastructure work as well. The SRA and Railtrack
need to make good the commitments which are beginning to be given
so that the country's trade arteries can be made efficient and
effective. The time has come to conclude all the feasibility studies
and get on with the necessary action on the ground.
It is clear that significant additional port
infrastructure will soon be required to handle expected container
volume growth, and the Committee will be aware of the proposals
for development at Dibden Bay (Southampton), Shellhaven (Thurrock)
and Bathside Bay (Harwich). The developers of all these schemes
have committed themselves to providing good rail facilities; these
need to be matched by equivalent capacity improvements on the
relevant parts of the Railtrack network.
As mentioned above, rail is not currently competitive
for the carriage of containers into London and the South East.
It is conceivable that, if suitable terminals within the M25 are
established, that effective rail shuttle services could be run
from Felixstowe and Southampton to make a real contribution to
reducing congestion on the region's main roads. Steps should be
taken to investigate this concept and begin the necessary planning.
As the rail industry begins to deal with the
opportunities for growth it is becoming clear that the processes
laid down in the Transport and Works Act present a major obstacle
to the development of the rail freight industry. Proposals to
develop such facilities as the proposed terminals at Colnbrook
(London International Freight Exchange) and Alconbury have had
to incur very considerable expenditure and inordinate delay to
comply with the requirements of the Act; the works necessary to
expand the capacity of the West Coast Main Line call for an Inquiry
which is expected to last for at least a year; and the consideration
of the best solutions for many network problems is heavily constrained
whenever it becomes apparent that the Act may apply.
Whilst we agree that it is vitally important
that the interests of the ordinary citizen and the environment
should receive the fullest possible protection, it is becoming
apparent that the procedures laid down in this Act are clumsy
and inefficient, and likely to have an adverse impact on the international
competitiveness of the United Kingdom as well as delaying the
implementation of rail transport schemes which are expected to
have very positive environmental advantages for the country, including
those arising from the development of rail for the conveyance
of port-related goods.
Members of the All Party Parliamentary Rail
Freight Group recently participated in a visit to Belgium and
the Netherlands and saw the rail infrastructure in place and being
provided to serve the major container ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam.
A major new container terminal is currently under construction
at Antwerp, whilst the impressive Rail Service Centre at Rotterdam
(one of two major terminals in the Port of Rotterdam) handles
each day 35 trains departing to destinations throughout mainland
Europe. Investments into the rail network infrastructure are proceeding
apace in both countries, and will undoubtedly further assist the
competitiveness of their economies. Felixstowe is the fourth largest
container port in Europe, yet its rail facilities and connections
are puny by comparison.
Much of the necessary policy to allow rail to
improve its contribution to the activity of the ports in Britain
is in place, the SRA and Railtrack understand what should be done.
What is needed is some urgency in carrying through the policies
into an active and effective implementation phase.
2 9 foot 6 inch containers currently make up around
20% of the equipment entering the UK, and the proportion is expected
to increase rapidly in view of the cubic capacity advantages they
offer; such containers cannot currently be carried by rail because
of the structure gauge unless disproportionately expensive wagon
solutions are employed. Back