Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Railtrack plc (P 27)

OPPORTUNITIES AND DEVELOPMENTS AT MAJOR PORTS

OVERVIEW OF CURRENT RAILFREIGHT MARKET

  Railtrack is committed to developing Britain's rail freight industry and helping it play a greater role in meeting the nation's transport needs. The Government's 10 year transport plan sets out a strategy for a large increase in the use of railways for both passenger and freight traffic in order to contribute to the reduction of current and predicted levels of congestion on roads. The target of an increase in rail freight volume of 80 per cent by 2010, which is equivalent to an increase in rail freight from the current 8 per cent market share to approximately 10 per cent, will, in turn, require a continued increase of freight traffic hauled from ports by rail. The freight operating companies operating services to and from ports are Freightliner and English, Welsh and Scottish Railways (EWS).

  Since rail privatisation freight volume in gross tonne miles has increased by 40 per cent (see table A on page 2). This has been achieved by aggressive marketing and reduced costs by freight operating companies. Railtrack has also consistently reduced its track access charges in unit volume terms by over 30 per cent over the same period.

  In 1999 Railtrack commissioned its own market analysis on the prospects for rail freight growth. Our study forecast that rail's share of Britain's freight market could grow from seven per cent today to as much as 21 per cent in 2010-11, depending upon continued efficiency and service improvements from the rail industry, the strength of the economy and the support of pro-rail freight transport policies. Railtrack's market analysis broadly confirms the mid range value of an 80 per cent rail freight growth as outlined in the 10 year transport plan.

  The potential benefits to society of increased rail freight traffic are widely recognised: reduced road accidents, air pollution, greenhouse gasses, damage to the road infrastructure, congestion and noise. By 2010, increasing rail freight could result, at the highest projections, in up to 22,000 fewer lorries on the road, assuming a joint rail industry and Government effort to promote rail freight. Such a shift to rail would result in an annual benefit to society of £2.1 billion, as opposed to £680 million realised today.

DOMESTIC INTERMODAL CONTAINER TRAFFIC

  The growth of domestic intermodal freight, particularly from the UK ports such as Felixstowe, Southampton and Tilbury to inland terminals in the Midlands, North West and Scotland, has been strong as is also shown in a breakdown of commodities in table A, page 2.

TABLE A: TRENDS IN FREIGHT ACTIVITY BY COMMODITY (MILLIONS OF GROSS TONNE-KILOMETRES)

  Rail traffic from deep sea containers landed in the UK to inland terminals has grown from 5,009 mgtkms in 1994-95 to 8,404 mgtkm in 1999-00, a growth of 68 per cent in total and an average of over 13 per cent per annum.

Commodity
1994-95
Actual
1995-96
Actual
1996-97
Actual
1997-98
Actual
1998-99
Actual
1999-2000
Actual
Growth
% pa, last
five years
1999-2000
Coal
6,899
6,840
6,711
8,117
9,960
10,800
56%
Metals
3,625
3,722
4,193
4,531
4,416
4,850
33%
Construction
3,709
3,467
3,004
3,389
3,902
3,880
5%
Oil and Petroleum
3,492
3,331
3,199
3,265
3,290
3,162
-9%
International
1,183
2,037
2,311
2,829
2,828
2,197
85%
Domestic Intermodal
5,009
5,974
6,294
7,144
9,010
8,404
68%
Other
7,713
6,346
6,909
7,281
9,806
10,897
41%
TOTAL
31,630
31,717
32,621
36,556
43,212
44,189
40%


RAIL LINKS TO EXISTING PORTS

  Historically there has been little incentive for the local Ports Authority to ensure that there is a rail option when developing their proposals to expand port facilities. There is no duty on the port operator to provide rail facilities, even where there is a commercial need. The Freight Facility Grant is a useful mechanism for assisting with the capital costs of providing rail freight facilities, but it is driven by commercial requirements rather than longer-term strategic direction for the industry.

  This had resulted, at some ports, in the relocation of berths without considering the need to maintain the railway link, leading to the loss of rail connections to, or within the port. This situation is driven by short-term commercial consideration of the port operator, for whom there are commercial benefits in using the land for other revenue earning opportunities.

  In Europe ports such as Rotterdam and Antwerp have their rail facilities provided, maintained and operated by the national rail companies. The provision of rail facilities at ports is funded entirely by the national government.

  A future duty on a port authority, as part of the planning process, to facilitate and maintain integrated transport opportunities, including rail, would be useful when new proposals are being developed. The impact of such developments on the local and trunk road network cannot be ignored, neither can the need for resultant works on the rail network.

FREIGHT FACILITY GRANTS (FFG)

  The provision of Freight Facility Grants for rail facilities is a useful mechanism for developing rail traffic. The recent announcement to award a £13 million grant to Bristol Port Company to assist Railtrack in re-opening the seven mile Portishead branch line to connect the Royal Portbury Dock, is to be welcomed. Facilities for loading coal, automotive and other goods, will also be provided and will result in at least six trains per day transferring from road to rail.

  There are other such development opportunities that could benefit from a pro-active joint port and rail industry approach. The largest of these could be the Port of Dover which currently has no rail freight facilities.

  Railtrack notes the principle of awarding grants for coastal shipping on the basis of the environmental benefits of transferring traffic from road to ship. There is however a real threat that grant aided coastal shipping will undercut rail and result in loss of rail business, leading to uneconomic services. This could particularly occur on feeder routes from Rotterdam to Grangemouth.

THE NEED FOR GAUGE ENHANCEMENT ON MAJOR PORT ROUTES

  The physical dimensions of a railway vehicle and its load are governed by a series of height and width profiles, known as loading gauges. Loading gauge profiles vary by route reflecting the constraints on rail vehicle size caused by lineside and overline structures. A railway wagon built to one of the smaller loading gauges (W6) is capable of operating on virtually any route on Britain's network. The larger loading gauges tend to have greater headroom, to enable intermodal flat wagons to carry tall containers and swap bodies (a system for conveying road freight vehicle bodies on rail vehicles).

  The globalisation of the freight market has lead to a rapid rise of "high cube" 9' 6" containers that now account for approximately 20 per cent of the market. Currently the maximum size of containers that can be carried by rail on standard height wagons is 9' 1" on W9 routes (8' 6" on W8 routes). These containers can be conveyed by rail on purpose built "well" wagons (wheels at end of wagon with a lowered deck area) without gauge enhancement but the train payload can be 30 per cent less than compared with standard wagons, which has implications for costs. By 2010 more than 40 per cent of all containers through UK ports will be 9' 6" high, as life expired 8' 6" containers are continually replaced.

  This will lead to a progressive loss of business for rail unless the loading gauge is enhanced on key freight routes from major ports to accommodate the higher 9' 6" containers. Research has indicated that there is a market to be safeguarded and developed but that there is no market premium available to fund investment in this work. This is essentially because a lorry will carry a 9' 6" container for the same tariff as an 8' 6" container. See chart A below for the historic, actual and projected market share of 9' 6" high cube containers through UK ports.

CHART B: HISTORIC AND PROJECTED MARKET SHARE OF 9' 6" HIGH CUBE CONTAINERS THROUGH UK PORTS


  We are therefore liaising closely with rail industry and the SRA to assess the relative costs and social benefits of enhancing key routes, and to agree funding for the gauge enhancement programme.

  This has lead to the development of W12 gauge, to carry 2.55m wide palletwide containers, swap bodies and piggyback trailers, but also to carry 2.6m wide refrigerated, "reefer" swap bodies. This will enable rail freight operators to tap into new markets, such as fresh produce in reefer swap bodies from Southern Europe into the UK.

  The initial routes for gauge enhancement are:

    —  the West Coast Main Line (WCML) from London to Glasgow including connections to Birmingham, (cleared to W10 in 2000);

    —  routes from the major container ports of Southampton and Felixstowe to join the WCML in the Midlands;

    —  Crewe to Manchester and Liverpool;

    —  the North London Line and the Gospel Oak to Barking routes across London;

    —  the Channel Tunnel to London;

    —  the Great Western Main Line from South Wales to London, connecting to the Channel Tunnel;

    —  a Trans-Pennine route;

    —  the East Coast Main Line corridor from London to Glasgow.

PORT TRAFFIC AND CAPACITY ON THE RAIL NETWORK

  In order to meet the continued growth of rail freight traffic from ports, Railtrack has developed options to increase capacity on key freight routes. These will require significant funding from the SRA to safeguard the long term freight capacity. There are also a number of proposals for new port facilities at Dibden Bay near Southampton, Bathside Bay at Harwich and Shellhaven on North Thameside. In addition, existing ports such as Tilbury and Felixstowe have proposals to extend their facilities.

  It is clear that, at least in the medium term, not all these proposals can be taken forward given the scale of SRA funding. There is therefore a need to decide which of the proposals will proceed and what traffic growth should be planned for when developing proposals on specific railway routes.

  The main rail enhancement proposals that are being developed with the support of the SRA and affect UK port traffic are outlined below:

FELIXSTOWE CROSS-COUNTRY FREIGHT ROUTE

  Currently traffic from the Port of Felixstowe is routed via London to the West Coast Main Line. Railtrack is undertaking feasibility work, funded by the SRA, to develop a cross-country freight route. This will accommodate the growth of the Freightliner traffic from Felixstowe and the potential development at Bathside Bay at Harwich by diverting up to 30 trains in each direction, within 10 years, per day along an upgraded freight route via Ely, Peterborough and Leicester to Nuneaton, where it would join the West Coast Main Line.

  This work is also pertinent to the Government's A14 multi-modal study, which is currently looking at the future of key sections of the corridor, and the potential to create road capacity by switching container freight to rail where possible.

  Enhancement works would include:

    —  W12 loading gauge enhancement (9' 6" containers on standard wagons).

    —  Signalling improvements/resignalling between Peterborough and Nuneaton.

    —  Remodelling at Leicester.

    —  Additional signals between Bury St Edmunds and Chippenham Junction.

    —  Freight loops at Bury St Edmunds, Ely, March, Peterborough and Nuneaton.

    —  Track renewals to accommodate the additional tonnage.

    —  Works at Ipswich to accommodate the additional traffic.

    —  Accommodation of 775m trains.

  The estimated cost of these works is c£300 million and it will free up capacity on congested London routes as well as safeguard long term growth for rail freight.

SOUTHAMPTON TO MIDLANDS

  The port of Southampton carries significant volumes of containers by rail to the Midlands, North West and Scotland. Currently up to 13 trains per day in each direction with projected continued growth.

  The route taken by these trains requires significant investment in capacity to accommodate freight and passenger growth.

  Enhancement works would include:

    —  Cherwell Valley (Banbury) resignalling.

    —  West Midlands freight routing improvements.

    —  Reading remodelling.

    —  775m long trains.

  There is currently a proposal by Associated British Ports to develop a new port facility at Dibden Bay. This development could give rise to an increase of up to 25 trains per day in each direction. This will require significant additional rail capacity.

FREIGHT ACROSS LONDON—TILBURY AND SHELLHAVEN AT NORTH THAMESIDE (PROPOSED)

  With the diversion of the Felixstowe traffic via the cross country route the requirement for additional freight on the North London Line will be reduced. However, if the Shellhaven development goes ahead, demand is forecast to continue and eventually exceed current levels.

  The proposed strategy is to develop two freight compatible routes across London. Growth forecasts suggest that we will need to provide at least two paths per hour via the Gospel Oak—Barking route and one path per hour via Stratford. This will also satisfy growth of existing non-port rail freight residual traffic from North Thameside.

  Currently we are estimating the cost of gauge clearance works on the North London Line, and we consider that the following upgrades may be required for passenger and freight aspirations:

    —  Upgrading structures on the Gospel Oak—Barking line for heavier freight.

    —  Resignalling between Dalston and Willesden for capacity.

    —  AC electrification of lines between Dalston and Camden.

    —  Reinstatement of the No 1 lines between Dalston and Camden.

  These proposals are dependant upon the SRA's review of freight and passenger demand and their service requirements for the North London line.

TRANS-PENNINE

  W12 gauge enhancement in the east-west Trans-Pennine corridor would allow the carriage of deep sea containers to terminals in the North West and Yorkshire on standard flat wagons. The Trans-Pennine corridor links the Humber, Tees and Tyne with the North West. It also offers the opportunity to provide a "land bridge" between Northern Europe and Northern England and, through the Mersey ports, to Ireland. The ports of Immingham and Hull handle large volumes of unaccompanied roll on-roll off traffic, much of which currently passes over the M62 and associated motorways that are becoming increasingly congested.

  Through parallel development of a few rail terminals in the North West, the Trans-Pennine high gauge route could offer the opportunity to "extend" the ferry services through to one or more major distribution centres west of the Pennines. This would allow road and rail to work together to overcome the increasing congestion on the M62.

  Railtrack is working with SRA and the EU (through the North European Trade Axis initiative) together with other freight industry partners to develop these proposals. This will also include other freight specific opportunities such as improving axle loads, train lengths and rail freight driven capacity enhancements, for example Hunterston Anglo-Scottish Coal and the Settle and Carlisle line.

CONCLUSION

  Railtrack is committed to improving the rail network and recognises that better rail links to ports will assist in encouraging more freight onto the railway. We will therefore work closely with the SRA, with its new responsibilities for freight, to ensure that projects are taken forward that meet the long term needs of the freight industry and wider economy.

January 2001


 
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