Rail aims to double share of freight market

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Rail operators are hoping to double their share of the UK’s freight market over the next 30 years, according to a new strategy document “Planning ahead” published today.

The aim is for rail’s share to rise from 11.5 per cent to 20 per cent, according to the authors – Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies and the Rail Freight Operators’ Association.

Graham Smith, chairman of the RFOA, said: “Our vision is for an efficient railway with increased capacity that can accommodate freight users’ expanding domestic and international needs. This vision delivers reduced carbon emissions, increases the competitiveness of British industry and will enable rail to move 20 per cent of freight in Britain. We look forward to working with our infrastructure and passenger partners in planning the railway of the future.”

The paper said: “Rail freight demand (measured in tonne-km) has grown by 60 per cent in the last 14 years as the sector has responded to major changes in freight flows and played a full part in the increasing internationalisation of freight demand.

“Continued rail freight growth in the international market and in moving many commodities means demand is forecast at least to double over the long term. This will partly be overall market growth, but a substantial part of it will be due to mode shift from roads, with the potential for rail to increase its modal share towards 20 per cent.”

And it went on: “A substantial increase in freight demand will require substantial extra capacity, in particular on the approaches to ports and the Channel Tunnel, and on the key inter-urban routes (which will also be under pressure from growth in inter-urban and other passenger markets).

“Potential solutions here include the use of capacity either on new lines (such as High Speed One) or that is freed up by new lines, and substantial upgrades to existing routes (e.g. the Joint Line upgrade in CP4 to relieve the East Coast Main Line). It is important to consider diversionary routes so that FOCs can offer a comprehensive service to customers.”

DB Schenker, Britain’s largest rail freight operator, described the vision for freight as exceptional. “The rail industry expects that the rail freight industry will grow from transporting 11.5 per cent of goods today to transporting 20 per cent of all goods moved in Britain in the next 30 years.”

The company said the railway of the future would:

* Continue to be the safest form of transport

* Help meet the UK’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050

* Ensure that freight need never go by road because there is no room on the railway

* Be open for business when its customers need it

* Provide improved journey times between international gateways and major conurbations

* Deliver an improved service to shippers of bulk freight, manufactured goods and logistics traffic which is attractive to domestic and international customers

* Establish rail connections to terminals and distribution centres, making rail freight a natural choice

* Provide an end-to-end service that is simple to use and flexible enough to meet users needs

* Lower pollution and carbon emissions by displacing lorry journeys

“DB Schenker will work with Network Rail, ATOC and the RFOA to support the development of a renewed vision for the freight railway that ensures its growing role as a key part of the supply chain of the nation. The results of this work will support the government’s next review of the funding requirements for the railway, due in 2012.”

The paper “Planning ahead” also looks at the development of passenger services and said it envisaged a railway where:

* Passengers experience more comfortable journeys with better stations, less overcrowding

* There is better integration with other forms of transport, with parkway stations for major cities and towns to relieve road congestion and better rail links to airports

* 80 per cent of passengers travel on a green, electrified network

* There is new capacity on the network, including new high speed lines that has all but replaced internal flights

* Record train punctuality will be further improved and sustained

* Most replacement bus services during improvement work have been eliminated

* Freight market share doubles from 11.5 per cent to 20 per cent taking millions of lorry journeys off the roads

* The railway plays a vital role in reducing carbon emissions

* Track-side signals and telephones are eradicated as trains are controlled by computer and digital radio technology

* The taxpayer, passenger and freight users see a network that is highly efficient and affordable

The document also challenges government planning and calls for public transport to be at the core of housing, business and leisure planning in the future so that such new developments, that can add ten of thousands of new houses, are located where there are strong transport links that have spare capacity.

Paul Plummer, Network Rail’s director of planning and regulation, said: “Today’s publication is a start but much more work will be done as the industry works to advise and guide governments in making affordable investment decisions that will benefit the passengers and freight users of the future.”

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