Memorandum by Railtrack plc (P 27)
OPPORTUNITIES AND DEVELOPMENTS AT MAJOR PORTS
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.
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.
% pa, last
|Oil and Petroleum||3,492
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.
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 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
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;
the East Coast Main Line corridor from London
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
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
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
Remodelling at Leicester.
Additional signals between Bury St Edmunds and
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 OakBarking
route and one path per hour via Stratford. This will also satisfy
growth of existing non-port rail freight residual traffic from
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 OakBarking
line for heavier freight.
Resignalling between Dalston and Willesden for
AC electrification of lines between Dalston and
Reinstatement of the No 1 lines between Dalston
These proposals are dependant upon the SRA's review of freight
and passenger demand and their service requirements for the North
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.
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.