Rail freight has grown so fast that the East Coast main line between London and Aberdeen needs to be developed to provide more capacity.

The line is already one of Europe's busiest mixed-use railways and carries hundreds of freight trains a day.

Britain's largest rail freight operator, EWS, will call on Network Rail to make plans now.

Just before Christmas, Network rail announced a capacity study into the line for the Office of Rail Regulation.

The line is an important link for East Coast ports such as Immingham, Hull, Redcar, Felixstowe and Harwich and new freight terminals are planned along the line.

"The need for enhanced capacity for freight on Britain's railway network is an important issue," said Graham Smith, EWS planning director.

"The East Coast main line will become an increasingly important route as freight by rail continues to grow. Network Rail has been supportive of rail freight development in 2005 and as one of their largest customers we expect that to

"The initial finding that no more freight can be accommodated
on the ECML needs to be explained as we have access rights to use this rail route. If there is no room for freight growth we assume there is no room for other growth either."

He added: "Rail freight can be flexible when circumstances
allow as demonstrated by the joint industry review that reduced the number of coal trains on the north end of the East Coast main line.

"However, this review increased capacity for rail freight between Scotland and England through a review of timetables on the Glasgow and South Western and the Settle and Carlisle routes, which enabled an additional 30 freight trains to be
accommodated on these lines.

"The additional services began operating in December 2005 and will enable an extra two million tonnes of coal to be
transported by rail from Scotland to power stations in Yorkshire."

EWS will publish detailed proposals later.

It will also show how importance rail freight is to the

Information from EWS