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Column - December 2010

Go-ahead for key element of the Rail Freight Strategic Network

The confirmation of the upgrade to the key rail freight link between Felixstowe, the UK largest container port and Nuneaton, is great news for society as well as the industry. Rail already has a quarter of the business out of Felixstowe with 56 trains per day running to and from Felixstowe with 28 trains in each direction.

However, because of the limitations of the existing infrastructure the rail freight industry has not been able to meet the demand for more services through a combination of lack of capacity and gauge clearance on the route. These projects mean that rail  traffic along the A14 and A12 corridor, can start to expand as it will ensure attractiveness of rail freight compared with road.
Rail freight is an indispensable part of the British economy, carrying an estimated £40 billion worth of goods. It is currently estimated that rail freight contributes £870 million to the nation’s economy but actually supports an output of £5.9 billion, six times its direct turnover. 1

These enhancements are part of the initial Strategic Rail Freight Network scheme, designed to build  a reliable robust network including links to the ports and diversionary routes. The work will include gauge enhancements between Peterborough and Nuneaton  to complete clearance of the route between Felixstowe and Nuneaton for larger freight containers and capacity enhancements between Ipswich and Peterborough and a flyover north of Nuneaton station.

Crucially, the project will help take around 750,000 lorries off Britain’s roads by 2030 and therefore reduce traffic congestion, improve road safety and reduce carbon emissions by around three-quarters. It will improve the capability of rail freight links to the region to support regional competitiveness and access to wider global market opportunities. The work is due to start in 2012 and be competed by March 2014.

Government to undertake cross modal analysis of A14 corridor in new year

If further capacity works were to be undertaken, in addition to committed projects detailed above, 4 million lorry miles could be removed from this A14 corridor per annum and rail could have up to 40 per cent of the market out of the Haven ports.

 The large scale road scheme which had an  estimated project cost of around £1.2 billion   for the A14 has been dropped, and multi modal alternatives are now being considered. So we welcome the fact that the Government is reappraising the solution to congestion along the A14 corridor by evaluating all the modal options. Freight on Rail believes that this presents a real opportunity to enhance rail capacity to alleviate road congestion, reduce the carbon impacts of freight as well as reducing exposure to road accidents 2 along this corridor.  The route has some unique characteristics, for example strongly focussed flow from the port of Felixstowe, which requires analysis going well beyond the local area.  This was not covered in the original study (CHUMMS) from which the major road proposal was developed.

We will be making the case to the DfT for further capacity upgrades on the route with the aim of getting capacity upgrade schemes included in the next Network Rail funding period (CP5) from 2014 to 2018. An important element of increasing freight capacity on this route will be the re-signalling of Leicester Station, essentially a passenger upgrade, which needs to be part of Network Rail’s funded workplan for 2014-2018.  


1. Source Network Rail July 2010 Value and importance of rail freight

2. HGVs on major roads were over 3 times more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than cars due to a combination of size, lack of proper enforcement of drivers hours, vehicle overloading and differing foreign operating standards in 2008.

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