Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Rail Freight Investment Boosts Container Shipping Ports

Government Announcement Receives Universal Praise from Industry
Shipping News Feature

UK – Freight organisations across the country were unanimous in their support for the latest Government plans to invest in the rail freight sector which were revealed yesterday. Plaudits came from sections of the cargo community ranging from port representatives to Chambers of Commerce at the news that as part of a £9.4 billion rail funding package, Transport Secretary Justine Greening has announced a further £200 million for the development of the Strategic Rail Freight Network, enabling the development of schemes including the upgrade of the major container routes from the deep sea ports.

Rail freight is also set to benefit from the development of an Electric Spine, from Southampton to Birmingham, East Midlands and South Yorkshire, which offers medium term prospects for electrically hauled freight. The development of this route will also improve capacity and gauge. Specific projects at Ely, Peterborough and Leicester are also committed, delivering additional capacity for rail freight as is the announcement regarding a further £30 million committed by the Scottish Government for the development of rail freight schemes in that country.

The announcement is part of the ‘Control Period 5’ package, the Government’s proposals for rail infrastructure development in the period April 2014 to March 2019 and titled ‘High Level Output Specification 2012’ available to view HERE. Freight Transport Association (FTA) spokesman Chris MacRae, welcomed the news as good for the continuing development of Britain’s trade links and connectivity, modal shift and the environment saying:

“Rail freight has already benefited from an equivalent freight focussed scheme in 2009 to 2014, so it is great that this investment is to continue; this has been a key objective of ours. FTA has already lobbied the Government and Parliament on key rail freight infrastructure enhancement schemes. The announcement of the fund for the Strategic Freight Network, together with the additional investment schemes that will benefit freight as well as passenger traffic, is welcome progress on these objectives.”

The Rail Freight Group (RFG) were as supportive as was expected saying the announcement was a significant investment in the future of the industry with Maggie Simpson, RFG Policy Manager commenting:

“We are delighted that Government has demonstrated its commitment to the rail freight sector, with the benefits it brings to the environment, road congestion and the economy. This package of investment will support future growth and enable freight operators and customers to develop ever more efficient and innovative services.”

The news that Southampton Docks would benefit significantly was warmly received by many Hampshire stakeholders who expect throughput to receive a boost from the upgrade to the port’s infrastructure with Associated British Ports Southampton director Doug Morrison quoted as saying:

“This will add another string in the Southampton port’s bow and give our customers a greater choice and that is what it is all about for us. The way we can grow business is to take business away from competing ports by offering the choice of carrying more freight. This has come as a pleasant surprise and I am delighted that the Government recognises Southampton as a key international gateway and that it is supporting us with proper infrastructure.”

With news that access was to be improved staff at DP World’s port operation felt their own expansion plans would benefit directly by the improved services. The company, which is also developing the new London Gateway port on the Thames at Stanford le Hope is investing heavily in their Southampton facilities combining container berths and creating and extra box berth to handle the new generation of super sized container ships.

The only slightly down beat note came from Hampshire Council which questioned why the investment could only begin in two years time with city council leader Cllr Richard Williams, saying:

“The Government should get on with it in top gear. Announcements are one thing, action is another. My main concern is that we are missing an opportunity and holding back the recovery.”