Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Now Freight Forwarding Group Backs Rail Cargo Carriers Over HS2

Report Engenders Support from the Logistics Community
Shipping News Feature

UK – As arguments for and against high speed rail become polarised Britain’s cargo carriers seem to be firmly behind the scheme. Unsurprisingly the Rail Freight Group (RFG) is a committed supporter of High Speed 2 (HS2), principally for the additional capacity it will create on the existing UK rail network, and now the forwarding community, in the shape of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), has also welcomed the recent report by HS2 Chairman Sir David Higgins, HS2 Plus, into its viability.

BIFA maintains that the report will help increase confidence in the financing, feasibility and benefits of the massive infrastructure project whilst the RFG has praised Higgins’ the recommendation not to proceed with the planned connection between HS1 and 2 in Phase 1 saying, although such a connection is strategically important, the proposed scheme was not fit for purpose and presented serious capacity and performance risk for freight services.

The RFG believes accelerating the delivery of Phase 2 to Crewe will also help to relieve capacity for freight services to the major North West conurbations and says it will be looking for more detailed commitment to this work in coming months and to understand the overall impact on freight capacity with Maggie Simpson, RFG Executive Director, commenting:

“Efficiently delivering goods to and from the major conurbations of the UK is economically vital. HS2, if fully integrated with the existing network, will deliver significant benefits through a greater use of rail freight. We are pleased that David Higgins has listened to the concerns of the freight sector and is proposing changes to the project that address some of our key concerns.”

For its part BIFA has looked at the RFG’s figures which demonstrate that intermodal freight traffic has grown by 60% in the last decade and predict a continuing growth rate of 3.3% per annum up to the year 2030. Whilst much of the discussion has been about the potential saving in time for passengers travelling between London and Birmingham and Manchester, BIFA is more focused on the opportunities presented to freight operations with the potential release of West Coast Main Line capacity to intermodal trains. BIFA Director General Peter Quantrill, observed:

“Companies that are members of BIFA are regular users of the national rail network to move cargo to and from ports, a trend that has developed over the past ten years. Rail freight is growing [and] the present rail system is becoming increasingly overcrowded and reaching a capacity crisis that can only be partially met by measures such as increasing train lengths and improving the existing network. The increase in capacity is the single most important argument in favour of developing HS2 and is one that the project’s critics seem reluctant to challenge.

“It becomes all the more important when one considers that, while much UK manufacturing is based in the Midlands, the North and the Central Scottish belt, increasingly volumes of non-EU originating or destined ocean containers are being moved by rail through ports in the South and South East, such as Felixstowe, Tilbury, Southampton, Thamesport and, now, the London Gateway.

“There are environmental impacts to the building of HS2 as well as political repercussions from the decision that may take years to resolve. While the talk continues, the UK faces rail congestion that hurts the country’s bottom-line, and we would urge politicians on all sides of the House to get behind this important project by taking on board the comments of the HS2 Plus report.”