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Network Rail Investment Programme: Hendy Consultation.

Freight on Rail thanks Network Rail for the opportunity to comment on the Network Rail investment programme.

Freight on Rail, a partnership of the rail freight industry, the transport trade unions and Campaign for Better Transport, works to promote the economic, social and environmental benefits of rail freight to local, devolved and central Government in the UK and to the European Commission, Parliament and Council of Ministers.

Freight on Rail is pleased to see that key rail freight projects have remained part of the investment programme with the majority now due to be delivered by the end of CP5. Inclusion of the schemes in the CP5 period is very welcome as the freight upgrades to take places as soon as possible. It is crucial that Network Rail now focuses on making sure that these projects are delivered as planned.

Freight upgrades

  • Branch line upgrades between Felixstowe and Ipswich
  • Bootle line to Liverpool docks upgrades 
  • Completion of train lengthening out of Southampton. Part of this work was carried out in CP4 but cannot be used until the final work is completed
  • Buxton train lengthening

Why it is important that these schemes are delivered as planned during CP5:-

  • Hendy Review recognised that rail freight projects give significant socio-economic benefits to the UK. It stated that the average benefit cost ratio for rail freight schemes is between 4 to 5 1, Targeted investments work as the gauge enhancements out of Southampton port resulted in rail market share increasing from 28 per cent to 36 per cent within a year of completion. Financial analysis  £70.7 million project having a Net Present value of £376m
  • There is supressed demand for rail freight services especially out of the ports which means that each additional freight path which becomes available out of Felixstowe can be used immediately. The Felixstowe to Ipswich branch line upgrades will allow another ten freight paths which could remove an additional 600 HGVs from the congested A14 corridor each day.
  • Construction traffic which grew 10 per cent last and is forecast to grow 2.5 per cent each year, is a key growth market. The Buxton train lengthening project will improve the efficiency and therefore competitiveness of the quarry flows.
  • The Strategic Rail Freight Network Vision has resulted in sustained growth in deep sea intermodal services in recent years with 5 per cent growth last year.

We welcome the fact that the Midland Main Line capacity works also remain funded which will provide key freight benefits.

Control Period 6 Strategic Rail Freight Network schemes

However, we note that a number of key freight projects which were originally included in the CP5 programme have been dropped, in particular the capacity upgrades on the Felixstowe to the North project from Ipswich to Nuneaton. We believe that the DfT and Network Rail should act to ensure that the projects continued to be prioritised and funded in CP6.
The following elements of the Felixstowe to Nuneaton upgrade have now been deferred;

  • HaughleyJn - deferred due to cost overruns
  • Peterborough – Helpstonresignalling – deferred due to uncertainty over ERTMS programme
  • Leicester remodelling – deferred to CP6 by MML programme
  • Ely- Soham – deferred as part of Hendy review
  • Ely North – deferred as part of Hendy Review
  • Syston – Stoke gauge – deferred as part of Hendy Review

Freight links to Gospel Oak to Barking electrification

There is a strong economic and environmental case for including the freight links to West Coast Mainline and London Gateway in the electrification of Gospel Oak to Barking. This route provides an alternative freight route to a congested part the North London Line which makes both routes more reliable and robust. The freight links are just a few miles to ensure that we can electrically haul as far as Birmingham, Manchester and even Scotland which delivers all the environmental and operational benefits of electrification. Rail freight traffic from London Gateway continues to expand.

Disposal of freight lands

We understand the sale of railway land is being used to make up some of the funding shortfall caused by cost overruns in the current Network Rail Control Period. We are concerned that the pressure on the industry, and especially Network Rail, to maximise income from land sales in the short term doesn't jeopardise future rail development, including for freight. We are concerned to see processes in place to ensure that only those sites which are genuinely of no future value to the railway are sold. We are concerned that sale of railway land should not be formally considered until such a review has been completed and a methodology which accurately reflects the present and future value of railway land is in place.

While accepting that perfect foresight is not possible, there is clearly a need to avoid the loss of sites which may hold strategic value in the future. There are numerous examples from around the network of where alignments and land have been sold which would now be extremely useful. For example, the East-West rail project linking Oxford and Cambridge has been significantly hindered by the loss of the original alignment, including the 2006 decision to allow a rowing lake to be built on a section in Bedfordshire. This was despite the Government having already announced it was in principle in favour of re-establishing a rail link.

  • Bacon chord at Ipswich – this allows freight trains going towards the East Midlands to avoid Ipswich station centre saving 75 minutes each trip and allowing 25 freight trains daily to avoid Ipswich on the direct route via Peterborough and free up passenger and freight paths going towards London. The land was safeguarded by Ipswich Borough Council with Rail Freight Group endorsement despite Railtrack saying in 2000 that the chord was not needed for rail freight. 

The Freight on Rail campaign has succeeded in safeguarding key sites including:

  • Heathfield in Devon - we were able to stop Teignbridge Council changing the usage of the site away from rail. A year later the terminal came back into use by Colas Rail for timber traffic from Wales.
  • Barking - we were able to get safeguarded a corridor near Ripple Lane in East London beside the exchange sidings which is wide enough to take railfreight from HS1 to the rest of the network.
  • Cricklewood rail lands - we campaigned to safeguard land for rail freight at Cricklewood as it would be a perfect site for a consumer terminal, near to the heart of London. We had hoped for a larger site as it is now constrained and hemmed in and only connected to the MML.

We want to make sure that these kinds of sites are not sold off for short term income when they could be crucial for the economy to improve connectivity in a low carbon safer mode which reduces road congestion.

1. Ref 28 Hendy Review

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