Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rail Freight Group Supports HS2 Plans

Local Meeting Covers National Issues
Shipping News Feature

UK – Although the latest meeting of the Rail Freight Group (RFG) yesterday was a regional affair held in Derby the location is particularly significant as the East Midlands is a significant generator of freight traffic, and is also at the crossroads of many through freight routes. The area is increasingly important as a distribution hub for cargo for the retail sector, which generates opportunities for modal shift and an increased use of rail.

The meeting gave attendee’s the ability to discuss many national affairs relevant to the current, and future, situation of cargo carried by rail throughout the UK and beyond. Maggie Simpson RFG’s Policy Manager pointed to the growth of intermodal traffic in recent years commenting that there appears to be real evidence of modal shift happening at the ports, in particular at the port of Southampton. She welcomed the recently published Initial Industry Plan (IIP) which sets out plans for what should be included in the next Control Period including capacity upgrades at Felixstowe and Southampton and gauge clearance.

The RFG are supporting the High Speed 2 (HS2) scheme whilst requesting for six freight paths per hour to be agreed as part of the project’s scope for releasing freight capacity. Other positive notes include short sea boxes being used on low-deck wagons, something which was always thought impossible (details of which can been seen on our article last month) plus the new DB Schenker Polish service and the passing by Brussels of the ‘flexibility package’ in regard to Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM), both of which were incorporated into another recent piece.

One topic hotly discussed was the Government’s trial of longer lorries, a scheme bound to find a hostile reception in the rail freight community. The RFG seems now resigned that, with the ten year trial now in place, it must simply wait and see the results whilst doing all it can to increase efficiencies in the rail sector which indeed the new low slung box wagons are beginning to do. Ms Simpson will no doubt cover much of the ground again when she speaks at the Interactive Symposium on Intermodal Freight Transport in London tomorrow.

Simon Blake, National Rail Manager, Aggregate Industries, pointed out that bulk customers can be under represented sometimes with a lot of the focus on intermodal freight. He said around 1.4 million tonnes of aggregate were moved in 2010 in and around the East Midlands explaining how rail is by far more efficient than road for aggregate traffic’s trunk haulage and offers excellent environmental benefits.

Some 50% of the product cost is transport and successful bulk traffic business is about volume. Currently trains are often length constrained making it vital to get the tonnage maximised on each service with other factors to consider including sources, depots and asset utilisation. Trunk haulage distance is always a key factor with customers varying in size and the market for sand and similar in the South East means the UK may make it necessary to import product after three years.