Air quality law threatens rail freight

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An EU directive on air quality could be a major threat to rail freight, the Freight Transport Association has warned.

The Non-Road Mobile Machinery Directive comes into force by the end of 2011 dealing with particulate emissions from the power units of non-road vehicles and machines, including railway vehicles chainsaws and cranes.

Chris MacRae, the FTA’s rail freight policy manager, said: “Not only does it require new build or re-engined locomotives to be fitted with a power unit that doesn’t currently exist, and is unlikely to in the immediate future, it is also questionable if the larger cooler system required by the NRMM for new build or re-engined locos would actually fit into existing locomotive designs due to the UK’s restrictive loading gauge.

“The situation is especially parlous for those operators of Class 66 locos if they want to re-engine them at future life-extension overhauls.”

MacRae believes that new entrants to the rail freight market may see the supply of Class 66 locomotives (currently responsible for moving 95 per cent of UK rail freight) evaporate if manufacturers do not build them to the new standards. This anxiety has been heightened by the reported concerns of major European locomotive builders about building to these exacting new standards.

“With the reported lack of interest in building such a power unit, and no flexibility built into the NRMM directive to allow for power units being retrofitted, many freight operators will be getting very hot under the collar,” he said.

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