The development of railfreight over the next five years

Freight on rail has been one of the big national success stories over the last few years, as the five major rail haulers have significantly increased rail's share of the UK freight market. Particularly successful has been rapid increase in container movement from the major deep-sea ports to inland terminals. Much of this increase has been made possible by the investment by Network Rail (NR) in loading gauge enhancement, signalling and track improvements along specific routes. The Government made this funding possible by including these enhancements in the railway's High Level Output Statement (HLOS) that funded NR's Control Period 4, now coming to an end.

The work to complete the enhancements must go on into NR's Control Period 5 and be funded through the next HLOS now being considered by the Government. This investment must go on because it helps the UK meet its de-carbonisation targets. Rail emits about 25 grammes of CO2 per tonne kilometre compared to road's 120 grammes per tonne kilometre. In these days of increasing concern over fuel security and its consequent cost, a tonne of goods can travel 246 miles by rail on a gallon of diesel as opposed to 88 miles by road. So…rail is cheaper but also safer as each freight train on average takes 60 lorry journeys off our hard-pressed roads. Freight on rail means fewer lorries to be involved in accidents and wear out the road surface. See also our Freight policy statement.

The investment NR wants for CP5 HLOS of funding is £350m to complete the next phase of the National Freight Network. This is for the following priority schemes:

Felixstowe to Nuneaton

Phase 2 will increase capacity to enable up to 56 trains per day in each direction to operate. More re-signalling and track enhancements are required that will eventually help remove 750,000 lorry journeys per year. This will have the additional benefit of diverting freight trains away from the congested railways of London.

Southampton - West Coast Mainline

Capacity increases as predicted up to 2030 for signalling and track work to speed-up trains to take full advantage of rail's greatest attribute of 'volume and velocity'. Routes to enhance capacity and provide additional routes for 'the seven day railway' via Andover and Kew; Melksham; Oxford - Bletchley could be included.

West Coast Mail Line north of Preston

Increased capacity to 36 trains each way by 2019 with increases up to 48 each way by 2030 by the provision of longer freight loops with faster entry/exit to/from the mail lines to improve the interaction between faster passenger services and freight trains to avoid possible delays.

Great Western Main Line Gauge Enhancements

This scheme includes loading gauge enhancements from the London area to Bristol and Cardiff to enable the highest containers to be carried. Work will include bridge reconstruction, changes to track alignments and station platforms and canopies.

The Government has recently shown its understanding of and commitment to the national Strategic Railfreight Network by the funds released in the Chancellor's autumn statement.

To ensure that these further four projects are included in the NR CP5 HLOS bid, may I urge you to show that you support of them as outlined above. All these projects have additional cross-departmental benefits: cost savings in the roads budget; stimulation of economic growth; savings on carbon emissions. Please write to: the Chancellor of the Exchequer; the Secretary of State for: Business Innovation and Skills; Energy and Climate Change; Department for Transpor and stress the importance of these projects.

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