Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rail Freight Body Hails Approval for New London Interchange as Great for City Air Quality

Long Delayed Plan Given Go Ahead
Shipping News Feature
UK – The decision by planning authorities to give permission to the development of the Howbury Park rail freight interchange in Dartford, South East London* has unsurprisingly been warmly welcomed by the Freight on Rail group, a partnership consisting of various rail freight operators, the Rail Freight Group, Network Rail, the transport trade unions and the Campaign for Better Transport, and which states that the new development will help the capital by reducing air pollution, congestion, traffic incidents and carbon emissions. Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail Manager said:

“Howbury Park will allow consumer goods to be transported to London by rail and then transferred into low emissions vehicles for final deliveries across the capital. Interchanges like Howbury enable rail freight to compete with lorries because they reduce the transhipment costs between the modes. Rail freight, which produces 90% less PM10 particulates and up to 15 times less nitrogen dioxide emissions than HGVs for the equivalent journey, provides part of the solution to London’s air pollution.”

The long delayed Howbury Park interchange is part of a new network of strategic rail freight interchanges being developed across the country so that consumer freight can be transported long distance by rail to the edge of conurbations. Originally mooted in 2008 but delayed by the recession the development consists of a 149-acre site located close to the M25 motorway, which provides road links to the south eastern main road network particularly the A13, A2 and M20.

The site is also situated on the A206 dual carriageway which leads directly into south east London. Enthusiasts claim the rail freight interchange will also enable more container traffic from the main UK ports or the Channel Tunnel to unload close to central London, bypassing critical road blackspots.

The intention to increase rail freight traffic is both admirable and sensible however those who design the infrastructure can never avoid the ‘final mile’ problem. With ever tightening regulations as to the design and efficiency of delivery vehicles there is a real danger that smaller haulage operators will fall by the wayside whilst the prices to the consumer spiral upwards. Various spurious schemes are perennially raised including ‘central delivery depots’ which in fact the rail interchanges model, but there is no escaping that it is the multiplicity of eager consignees, all with differing time and logistical constraints, that remain a core problem.

*Editors Note: ‘South East London’ produced some comment within the HSG office, Dartford is geographically of course within the county of Kent ‘Garden of England’ but, with London Gateway Port in Essex sitting on the banks of the Thames even further down river it can be said that London’s urban sprawl might now be considered to extend thus far. Whilst Howbury might reduce pollution overall it is hard to see how this will actually diminish London emissions as claimed.

*Further to this we understand the development is in fact within the London Borough of Bexley, not as advised on the original press release Dartford.