Friday, September 08, 2006


It is being justified in terms of the Global Warming religion in order to make the British government bow down but the effect of reducing road congestion should be desirable to all. Mind you, turning the railway tracks into dedicated roadfreight highways would be infinitely more beneficial but that would require a government willing to REALLY upset the status quo

An unprecedented increase in freight trains will rid the motorway of 12,000 lorries a day but risks causing a decade of disruption for rail passengers. Network Rail, the rail infrastructure company, said yesterday that it will remove bottlenecks from its network to allow mile-long goods trains to operate between ports, power stations and distribution centres. It will also create room for an extra 120 freight trains a day by 2015, with bulk goods, such as imported coal, fuel and building materials, expected to fill much of the extra space. Each train will be able to carry 2,000 tonnes, the equivalent of 100 lorry loads. The boom in freight will reduce congestion on the roads but rail passengers may face delays from engineering works and are also more likely to find themselves stuck behind slow-moving freight trains.

Announcing Network Rail's frieght strategy for the next ten years, John Armitt, its chief executive, said: "We must maximise what rail can offer because otherwise we will end up with a lot more trucks on the road." He said that the increase in rail freight capacity would cost up to 500 million pounds, which would have to be funded by the Government. Ministers are committed to expanding rail freight but have said that decisions on the future level of rail spending would be made next summer.

In addition to laying extra lines on routes that have only a single track, Network Rail said that it would widen dozens of bridges and tunnels to allow trains to carry the standard international size of freight container. It also promised to lengthen passing loops - the parallel stretches of track where freight trains wait while being overtaken by faster passenger services - on the East and West Coast Main Lines to accommodate longer trains.

Supermarkets have begun the switch back to rail, to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions caused by distribution and to improve their public image. Last month Tesco started moving non-perishable goods by train from the Midlands to its main Scottish distribution centre as part of a plan to save 4.5 million road miles a year and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6,000 tonnes. It joins Asda, which moves its goods from southern ports to northern depots by rail. Other companies, including Sainsbury, Toyota and Nissan, have also announced plans to carry their less time-sensitive goods by rail, and even mail trains, which were all but dead in January 2004, have made a comeback.

EWS, Britain's largest rail freight company, said that trains produced a tenth of the harmful emissions of trucks per tonne carried. Network Rail proposes to increase the total weight of goods carried by train by 30 per cent by 2016. The growth will be higher when the long distance travelled by rail freight is taken into account. EWS predicts that the number of tonne-kilometres - the industry's preferred measurement, which multiplies the number of tonnes by the number of kilometres travelled - will be 50 per cent up on current levels by 2015. That would restore rail freight to the level last achieved in the 1950s, when steam trains still dominated the network Graham Smith, EWS's planning director, said that the growth would be achieved only if the Government addressed the unfair advantage enjoyed by road hauliers. "We welcome Network Rail's vision for growth, but it will not happen unless the costs of using the rail infrastructure are made more affordable," he said. "We are being undercut by road hauliers coming from Europe, where they buy cheaper fuel and pay lower wages to Eastern European drivers."

EWS is lobbying against the Rail Regulator's proposal to double track access charges paid by freight operators. It said that it may have to cancel all goods trains through the Channel Tunnel from November 30, when the public subsidy for cross-Channel rail freight ceases. EWS is facing additional costs of 8,000 pounds a train for using the tunnel, but says that it can afford only 500 pounds a train.

Mr Armitt said that Network Rail's predictions assumed Britain's continued reliance on imported coal for power generation in the next ten years. "Even if we see a new nuclear programme, that will take time to deliver and may only deliver 20 to 25 per cent of generating capacity, so there will still be big demand for coal," he said.


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