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DfT Ports Policy consultation – Rail freight’s role

Freight on Rail urges local and regional authorities to respond to the DfT Ports Policy consultation which closes on 1 September. This short briefing is designed to help you justify the case for upgraded rail freight links with the major ports which can significantly reduce the negative impacts of increased port traffic.

In particular to help answer the Ports Policy consultation question below:
Q5-2 asks if the Government is doing enough to encourage traffic already using ports to make more us of rail and if not, what further measures might be taken?

Freight on Rail briefing contains the following sections

  1. Shipping industry wants to increase rail’s share of port traffic
  2. Government funding for rail enhancements to ports - TIF
  3. Potential to increase market share
  4. Need to plan and implement rail enhancements ahead of port expansion
  5. Need for even handed approach to funding inland rail and road links
  6. Grants
  7. The benefits of rail freight in economic, environmental and social terms
  8. How rail freight can reduce road maintenance costs for authorities

1. Shipping industry wants to use more rail freight

You will see from the following quotes that the shipping industry wants to maximise the use of rail freight from the major ports, because of its high performance and reliability.

“Rail will have to play a significant future role in moving cargo out of the British ports… As an industry we need all the rail freight we can get.” Jens Holger Niesen, MD, Maersk Sealand

Performance and reliability of rail

“Rail to and from the UK's major ports is proving more reliable than road. Dedicated K&N rail services from Southampton and Felixstowe are recording 95% reliability levels, compared with 'low-mid 80%' for comparable road haulage”. Peter Ulber, Chief Exec. Kuenhe & Nagel 2005

Alistair Monague of Maersk commended the UK industry for achieving 98 per cent on-time arrival at destination rail terminal. He noted that rail was cheaper than road to many terminals and demonstrated customer satisfaction. Maersk has trebled its rail volumes in three years and with the volume increases the unit cost paid by Maersk has dropped by four per cent.

Extract from Rail Business Intelligence 9th March on same speech from Mr. Monague of Maersk

Maersk stated that road hauliers raised their rates by 15 per cent over the same 3 year period…. But reliability is even more important for the shipping line. Out of 80,000 jobs (a box round trip in the UK) delays attributable to rail in 2005 were 882 wheras road delays amounted to 3336. “With road we have three, four or five times more problems, that is why we do it by rail,” Montague explained

2. Transport Innovation Funding TIF to enhance links to ports

We are pleased to report that a significant number of the main rail freight priority schemes have been put forward for detailed consideration as part of the Transport Innovation Funding Productivity scheme. We welcome this and the recognition of the importance of rail freight with relation to moving traffic, both intermodal and bulk cargoes from our ports to key distribution hubs across Britain.

The following schemes are being taken forward for consideration:-
Cross London gauge enhancements Gospel Oak – Barking gauge
Southampton to West Midlands gauge enhancements
Reinstatement of Mount Olive Chord, Liverpool docks
Teesport to East Coast Mainline gauge enhancements,
Humber ports/Immingham rail capacity enhancements,
Peterborough – Nuneaton gauge work, *capacity upgrades may be considered for second year of TIF

NR is submitting initial business cases by the end of July to the Government on these schemes for consideration for expenditure in TIF budget for 08/09.

3. Significant scope for increasing rail’s share of ports’ market

The following examples at the two largest UK container ports explain the potential for rail increasing its share of the traffic.

Haven Ports
Rail has current market share of 23 per cent out of the Haven Ports with the potential to increase market share to 35 per cent when Bath side Bay and Felixstowe are expanded, if rail enhancements, both capacity and capability are implemented. This growth in traffic could mean an extra 45 trains daily each way between Felixstowe and Nuneaton necessitating capacity upgrades as well as capability on this cross country route.

Rail currently has 28 per cent share of traffic and has the potential to increase this to 40 per cent if the gauge enhancements take place between Southampton and the West Midlands.

4. Rail upgrades need to be planned and implemented ahead of any port expansion

The lead times for rail upgrades means that upgrades need to be planned and implemented well ahead of any port upgrades.

5. The funding of inland links (road and rail infrastructure)

There needs to be an even handed approach in the treatment of S106 type conditions on port developments.

6. Sustainable Distribution Fund

Freight on Rail urges local and regional authorities to apply for grants from the Sustainable Distribution Fund. For the year April 07/08 there will be a budget of £7million for water and rail Freight Facilities Grants. It is not clear yet if the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) will continue beyond 2007 which provides around £2m in 06/07 for rail & water for use in supporting aggregates movements.

7 The benefits of rail freight

7 a) To relieve road congestion

An average intermodal freight train can remove 80 HGVs from our roads – Network Rail

An aggregates train can remove 120 HGVs from our roads – Network Rail

Issues facing road transport

  • Road congestion is causing extended and less predictable journey times.
  • Existing driver vacancies 47,000 with the average HGV driver age now 55.
  • Working Time Directive is estimated to require another 30,000 and to cost the road freight industry an extra £1 billion per annum.
  • Taxation by distance and tougher emissions regulations on the agenda.

Road and air transport do not pay the full costs imposed on society

Scotland’s national transport strategy May 2006 states that

‘Most of the problems that are caused by transport are caused by the fact that transport users – particularly road and air transport – are paying an artificially low price for transport which does not reflect the full cost of making a journey. Car users, for example, pay costs for their car, fuel and tax and insurance but they do not pay for the external costs they impose on society i.e. increased air pollution, increased noise, accidents.’

7b) Environmental case for rail freight

Rail freight makes a vital contribution to protecting the environment and helping the Government to meet its commitments to improving air quality and tackling climate change.

1.3 To protect the environment

Rail freight makes a vital contribution to protecting the environment and helping the Government to meet its commitments to improving air quality and tackling climate change. Overall rail produces less than one per cent of the total U.K. emissions of carbon dioxide, the principle green house gas, compared with 21 per cent from road transportii

Tonne for tonne rail freight produces 90 per cent less carbon dioxide than road transporti

Freight Transport: Average emissions in grams per tonne-kilometre



















Key: PM10 particulate matter of less than 10 microns; CO carbon monoxide; NOx oxides of nitrogen; CO2 Carbon dioxide; VOC volatile organic compounds.

7 c) Safety case

Rail is a safer way for society to distribute freight.
There were 28,864 accidents involving HGVs and LGVs in 2003: 9,958 HGV and LGV drivers and passengers were injured in 2003: 2,474 pedestrians were hit by HGVs and LGVs in 2003: 1,194 HGV and LGV drivers and passengers were killed or seriously injured in 2003 - Transport Statistics Great Britain, 2004 Edition, DfT

Rail safety – 5 passengers died during 2004. 3,221 people died in road accidents during the same period - Transport Statistics 2004 & Health and Safety Executive (rail figure excludes trespassers and suicides)

Richard Eastman divisional Director for Network Strategy at Highways Agency - Freight magazine interview May 06

“Many of the worst incidents involve HGVs. It takes time to physically clear heavy vehicles from the carriageway and by their nature, accidents involving them tend to be more serious”.

8. Rail freight can reduce road maintenance costs

Research commissioned by Freight on Rail this year, shows that the case study county council, which spends a typical amount on its road maintenance, could be saving as much as £770,700 on road maintenance each year because certain goods in its area go by rail rather than road. The research makes a strong case for local authorities to encourage more freight to go by rail, particularly where they have significant bulk, waste or port traffic in their regions, even without taking into account the significant additional environmental, social and congestion benefits of rail freight.

Lorries cause significant damage to the roads, which has to be paid for by taxpayers. Transferring freight to the railways reduces this cost. The damage done by heavy vehicles increases with approximately the fourth power of the axle load. Using the fourth power law, one axle of 10 tonnes (HGV scale) is 160,000 times more damaging to a road surface than an axle of 0.5 tonnes (car scale). This is why road surface maintenance is generally taken to be almost exclusively attributable to the heaviest vehicles.

The research carried out by MTRU looked at rail freight flows in a single county and analysed what the use of rail there was. The case study used specific freight flows to identify actual expenditure which would fall on the local highway authority if they transferred to road. It did not include costs met by central government for the trunk road network, and thus focuses on impact on local authority finances.

Allocated maintenance expenditure
All figures are per year for 2004/05

HGV: vehicle movements HGV: Millions of kilometres Maintenance Savings based on SLM values
268,800 9.922 £770,700

The sample county had a budget in excess of £15mn for 2004/05.
SLM= Sensitive Lorry Miles
Source: commercial data for flows; DfT Sustainable Distribution Fund for SLM rates per mile
Note: SLM includes some capital costs not included in County maintenance
Due to commercial sensitivity only summary figures are given in the report.


i. AEA Technology for Strategic Rail Authority, October 2004
ii. SRA February 2005

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