Rail operators have put forward plans for expansion, including a 30 per cent increase in freight tonne kilometres, at the same time as cutting costs by £1.3 billion a year.
The proposals in the Initial Industry Plan cover the period up to 2019 and represent the views of Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies, the Rail Freight Operators Association and the Railway Industry Association.
It highlights the need for upgrades to a number routes that are important for freight. These include:
Felixstowe to Nuneaton
Capacity enhancements needed to provide the network capability to accommodate anticipated growth in intermodal traffic from the port facilities at Felixstowe and Bathside Bay, to terminals in the Midlands, North West, North East and Scotland. In addition, it provides the opportunity to enable diesel-hauled freight that is currently routed via London to these destinations to use the cross-country route instead.
Southampton to West Coast Main Line
Capacity enhancements needed to provide the network capability required to accommodate the forecast growth in freight traffic between the terminals at Southampton and the West Midlands/West Coast Main Line. The scheme will also analyse and develop appropriate diversionary options.
West Coast Main Line (North of Preston)
Capacity enhancements to provide the network capability to accommodate the anticipated growth in both freight and passenger traffic in CP5, over the largely two track section of the West Coast Main Line between Preston and Glasgow.
Great Western Main Line W12 gauge clearance
This scheme enhances the loading gauge to W12 on the Great Western Main Line between London and Bristol and Cardiff, including the connection to the West Coast Main Line at Acton, enabling the network to accommodate forecast growth in 9’6 containers on flows from the deep sea ports to the west. Gauge clearance also enables freight terminals to be developed at Colnbrook (near Heathrow Airport) and Avonmouth. An opportunity exists in CP5 to minimise disruption to rail users and deliver this scheme efficiently in conjunction with the electrification of the Great Western Main Line.
The report has broadly been welcomed by industry groups. Maggie Simpson, policy manager at the Rail Freight Group, said: “Investing in rail freight is proving time and time again that it delivers real benefits for the customers of rail freight, and for the UK economy overall. We now need the Department for Transport to confirm the next phase of investment to give confidence to business that rail can and will continue to deliver for them. We strongly support this plan.”
And Chris MacRae, the Freight Transport Association’s rail freight policy manager, said: “Network Rail clearly values the contribution that rail freight makes to our economy and its part in getting more lorries off the roads. We support the four proposed freight schemes that it has outlined – its obvious commitment to a national structure for freight is to be welcomed.”