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Consultation on Freight Route Utilisation Strategy briefing FRUS

Freight on Rail urges local and regional authorities to respond to theNetwork Rail Freight Route Ulitisation Strategy consultation which closes on 24th November.
This short briefing is designed to give you a summary to help with responses which need to be emailed to or hardcopy to Freight RUS Consultation Response, National RUS consultation Manager 40 Melton Street, London NW1 2EE 

Freight on Rail welcomes the draft FRUS as being an important strategic document for rail freight.  The document covers the entire country, and interfaces with the other, route based RUSs which are under development.

1. Why is the FRUS important

The FRUS is important for a number of reasons;

  • It provides a strategic overview of rail freight now and over the next ten years
  • It provides industry agreed forecasts of freight growth
  • It sets out clearly the areas where action is necessary to accommodate growth.

The final version of the document is also expected to provide the preferred options for resolving those actions, which, in some cases, will need to be developed in detail within the route based RUSs.

What it does not cover

As the FRUS is a national document some area are not covered in detail, but will be picked up in the route based RUSs.

It does not cover the locations of terminals although it does give indications for strategic flows.

2.  How will the FRUS be used?

We expect that the FRUS will be used in a number of ways;

  • It will inform the DfT of freight needs for consideration in the High Level Output Statement (HLOS) and the Statement of Funding (SOFA) to be published along-side the Government’s long term rail strategy. Whilst these are principally about passenger services, we expect that there will be some consideration of freight needs where capacity enhancing schemes are being considered. It will also enable ORR to consider freight’s reasonable requirements when considering Network Rail’s oveall funding.
  • As the FRUS only looks at the next ten years it does not cover the full period under consideration in DfT’s rail strategy.  Nonetheless, it will help to i inform the medium term aspects.
  • The FRUS (and in some cases the route based RUSs) provides the strategic context for Transport Innovation Fund bids and decisions.
  • The FRUS also provides third part investors with an indication of enhancements that would be required to meet their aspirations.

3. What does the FRUS cover?

FRUS has been drawn up after detailed consultation with the industry. FRUS considers how the rail network should develop to cater for the growing demand for rail freight. FRUS has generally incorporated the future needs of rail freight and has used the industry forecasts published last year.

The FRUS looks at five main areas

  • The level and pattern of future demand,
  • The preferred routes of the freight operators,
  • Gauging policy
  • Key capacity constraints
  • Key Capability constraints

The freight forecasts within the FRUS show demand growth over ten years: in tonnes lifted as follows;

coal +10 to 15%
metals +15 to 39%
construction +20 to 26%
domestic intermodal   +177 to 422%
maritime containers +82 to 90%

This relates to an increase in tonnes.miles of about 50% over the same period.

This growth leads to network constraints in a number of areas set out in the document. The options to resolve these include:

Timetable alterations – create more capacity without the need for infrastructure enhancements.

Haulage alternations – e.g. moving from diesel to electric powered haulage to improve freight train speeds and performance over gradients.

Routeing alternatives – changing the routeing could free up capacity on the original route

Train lengthening – longer trains could transport more freight per train without increasing the weight of each wagon on the track

Signalling – more or more modern signalling could allow trains to operate closer together and thereby increase capacity

Bespoke infrastructure new lines, doubling track and electrification could provide significant increases in capacity.

4. Do respond to the FRUS, in particular sections affecting your region

As it is a consultation it considers options rather than drawing final conclusions so it is important that Network Rail receive feedback on this document. Network Rail has offered various solutions so it is important that you check the sections affecting your region are appropriately covered. 

The NR document describes the additional freight trains on a route by route basis, together with pinch points and proposals for enhancing capacity, gauge etc.

It focuses on priority gauge enhancements for containers from the ports of Southampton and cross-country from the Haven ports, and for capacity enhancements on the above routes plus parts of the West Coast Main Line and the coal traffic route from Hunterston to Carlisle and Leeds.

Below are points that you might want to include in your response

5. On-going Interface between FRUS and RUSs crucial

The FRUS aims to ensure that the freight demand forecasts used within each of the geographical route based RUSs are consistent. Freight on Rail believes It is crucial that a mechanism is set up to maintain consistency between the FRUS and RUSs in the longer-term.

6. Relationship with Regional Funding allocations

Smaller projects may be relevant for prioritisation in RFA rounds

7. Liaison with Regional and local authorities

NR should liaise with regional and local authorities to make sure that plans for enhancements are known to the authorities who produce Local Transport Plans. Also enhancements which use additional rail lands should be catered for in Local Development Frameworks and Regional Transport and Spatial Strategies. In particular, Route Enhancement Managers and Freight Route Managers need to communicate with authorities.

8.  Partnership role of Network Rail

NR has an important role to play in brokering partnership between itself, authorities, developers and other public bodies to bring about joint funding for rail improvements.


Philippa Edmunds email

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