GB Railfreight’s managing director John Smith has called on Network Rail to safeguard track expansion plans for the Midland Main Line.
Last month, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin told Network Rail to pause electrification of the Midland mainline from London to Sheffield, and the TransPennine route between Manchester and Leeds.
While this has been greeted with dismay in some parts of the rail industry, Smith said: “If a delay to these electrification programmes is accompanied by continued investment in Control Period 5 (CP5) capacity enhancements – particularly on the Midland Main Line – then I welcome the government’s announcement. It is capacity that is important, not wires above the tracks.”
In particular, he identified as critical the addition of two lines running parallel to existing lines – a process know as four-tracking – on routes from Kettering to Corby, and from Bedford to just north of Kettering – two schemes currently set out in CP5.
Regarding the latter, Smith said the combination of stopping and non-stopping passenger services is a major constraint for freight paths.
“Four-tracking this route would tackle many of the bottlenecks along the line and cater for future freight and passenger growth,” he said. “This is far more valuable in the short-term than overhead wires.”
Smith also called for a re-evaluation of timetabling for the MML to free up more freight paths, stating that industry markets fluctuate and timetabling must be regularly updated to reflect that.