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Freight on Rail Response to Transport Select Committee Inquiry into Rail Infrastructure: the effectiveness of current planning and investment delivery system.

Freight on Rail thanks the Committee for the opportunity to comment.

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.


  1. The following DfT quote explains the important role rail freight plays in servicing the UK economy while protecting society and the environment. Shifting freight from road to rail can result in significant CHG emission savings as well as economic and safety co-benefits 1.
  2. The rail freight industry welcomes the commitment made to continued investment in the rail freight network as well as the increased funding for railway maintenance and renewals in the Government’s recent Statement of Funds Available announcement.  Freight on Rail will be making a strong socio-economic case for continued Government rail freight investment, for which no figures have been given as yet for the next five year period from 2019-2024; As this inquiry states, enhancements will now be handled separately with a pipeline approach with a revised delivery process for this new Control Period 6. 
  3. Rail freight has seen consistent year on year growth in key consumer and construction markets. Construction traffic moved by rail freight grew by 7 per cent in the year to April 2017 to a record high of 4.25 billion net tonne-km, according to ORR figures. The largest commodity group is now domestic intermodal which grew by 6 per cent last year reaching 6.8 billion net tonne-km. Rail freight has been improving its performance; 87% of trains within 15 minutes of due time.
  4. As the committee may be aware, customer demand for more consumer and construction rail freight services is currently constrained by the lack of space on the rail network. In fact every rail freight slot (path) which comes free at Felixstowe can be filled straight away with repressed demand for another 15 trains a day out of Felixstowe on top of the 33 trains already serving the port each day.

    The impact of postponing renewals from the current control period into the next and the implications of the Secretary of State’s decision to remove enhancements from the control period process
  5. Removing enhancements from the Control Period process is regrettable as the previous shopping list approach with committed funding gave the industry confidence to invest on the basis that the Government had shown it was committed to upgrading the railways. The new pipeline approach lacks the same level of certainty which industry favours. So early confirmation from the Government of the budget would be advantageous to the rail freight industry.
  6. The railway industry as a whole needs to be able to plan long term for renewals, maintenance and upgrades which means that a stop/start approach adds difficulties in resourcing and training the appropriate specialists which adds to costs. An example of this being the problems resourcing suitable engineers for the electrification of the Great Western Line as this type of work had not been carried out for some years. Now with the shelving of key electrification projects, like MML, the skills built up could again be lost.
  7. We maintain that the uncertainty over further electrification schemes, proven technology, is short-sighted as electrification increases rail speeds and capacity as well reducing CO2 and air pollution.
  8. Furthermore, this new approach for rail infrastructure planning is in sharp contrast to the approach on roads where the Government is embracing the five year funding plan for roads and spending £15 billion on the Strategic Road Network during this period with Highways England expanding its network with over 1,300 additional lane miles between 2015 and 2020. While the same document states that HGVs contribute 38% of NO2 emissions from road transport, (even though they only make up 5 per cent of miles driven) close to its motorway network which the Government is expanding. The argument that building more roads, stimulates new traffic has been vindicated yet again by an Atkins report for Highways England which shows that the M25 so-called smart motorway widening has resulted in journey times worsened and traffic increasing by 13% within the first year.
  9. Targeted rail freight upgrades work; the gauge upgrades out of Southampton Port increased rail’s market share from 29 to 36 per cent within a year and had a benefit-cost ratio of five to one.
  10. Research for Campaign for Better Transport, sponsored by the DfT, showed that upgrading the parallel rail network on three key congested transport corridors, namely, A14, A34 and M6 could greatly reduce road congestion.
    The two A roads have up to 6,500 of the largest HGVs (5 and 6 Axle articulated lorries) on the corridors each day, between 10 per cent and 17 per cent of all traffic, and the M6 motorway has over 13,500 of the largest HGVs a day and on the M62 over 11,000. This represents 10-12 per cent of all traffic on the two motorway sections.
    The research found that upgrading existing rail lines, which run parallel to the motorway routes and are currently nearing full capacity, would allow large numbers of these lorry loads to be transferred to rail. This would help road congestion - because of the extra road space taken by lorries, transferring 2000 lorry loads a day to rail would be the equivalent of taking 8000 cars off the road.  As more rail freight interchanges become operational there is further scope to transfer traffic to rail. For example, the existing strategic rail freight interchange at Daventry removes 23 million HGV miles a year, most of which would otherwise be on trunk roads.
  11. We augmented the original corridor congestion research (above) to measure the reduction in air and carbon dioxide emissions as well as the safety benefits of rail transfer on the same key corridors.  Our finding show that NO2 emissions could be reduced by 10 per cent and particulates by 7 per cent on each corridor of the four corridors we examined. Furthermore, national carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by 2.5 per cent and killed and seriously injured figures reduced by 18, nationally.
    Press release to be issued on 20th December
  12. Rail Upgrade Plan (RUP)
    It is crucial that the new process is transparent and that the DfT and Network Rail ensure that freight schemes are part of core projects and not an after thought.  The benefit of small freight schemes cannot be overstated so the continuation of the Strategic Rail Freight Network Fund is very important. For example the Port of Liverpool enhancements costing less than £10m will increase capacity and also improve efficiency by allowing trains to leave port at a better speed.

    The RUP process must recognise rail freight’s role in meeting the Government’s environmental, congestion and collisions reduction targets. For example, research sponsored by the DfT showed that the transfer of freight to rail on key strategic transport corridors reduces road congestion considerably. So the evaluation appraisal must take into account the fact that rail freight produces far less external costs for the equivalent journey than HGVs.
  13. Key criteria:-

    The National Portfolio and Programme boards must treat rail freight schemes fairly.

    There is normally synergy between passenger and freight upgrades.

    All investment and new infrastructure must work for freight

    The rail freight industry has agreed the list of key projects which include the following

    1. Capacity upgrades on the routes between the main conurbations and the key container ports.
    2. Capacity and capability upgrades on key routes for aggregate traffic from the Peak District.
    3. Capacity and W10/W12 gauge cleared Trans Pennine, preferably the Diggle route upgrades

    The SOFA settlement includes funding for deferred CP5 schemes which need to be delivered as soon as possible.
    Furthermore, there are serious concerns about capacity on WCML post hs2
    Freight investment must not all be in the South of England
    Third party funding for EW rail looks as if it is heading for passenger only

12 Management of Possessions

Network Rail must collaborate with operators to deliver efficiently. The Rail Freight operators would prefer maximising use of possessions with suitable compensation regimes.
Access windows need to be improved. Longer closures cut costs of work on the network which the DfT Rail Upgrade Plan must take into account. The needs of rail freight customers must be given more importance in the new structure.
Expecting ports to pay for rail upgrades is often not realistic as they do not pay for motorway improvements and will just pass rail enhancement costs on in the form of higher lift charges for rail freight handlers.
The adequacy of the control period process in enabling the delivery of long term rail infrastructure objectives

The control period process can avoid the problems associated with a stop/start approach to rail enhancements.  The delivery problems with many of the CP5 schemes was price escalation. 
Whether Network Rail’s long term planning process is effective in providing the industry with strategic direction beyond the five year control period
Price escalation problems with the delivery of many schemes suggests that the GRIP process needs revision.


1. DfT Freight Carbon Review February 2017. P43 Key messages

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