By Phil Marsh

High speed freight – food for thought

Published: 1st October 2013

Going Dutch by high speed rail announced

The UK rail freight operators have issued a statement that there should be more recognition of the economic value of freight on our railways – especially concerning the HS2 project. In a joint letter prompted by the recent report commissioned by HS2 Ltd carried out by KPMG, GB Railfreight (owned by Eurotunnel), Freightliner, Direct Rail Services, Colas Rail and DB Schenker have for once joined together to argue their collective points.

The main principle is that once the longer distance high speed trains transfer to the new high speed routes, this will free up train paths on the East and West Coast main lines enabling more freight and passenger services to operate. (Its not about saving 10 minutes between London and Birmingham despite the whispers!).

These extra train paths, the freight operators argue, should remove up to half a million HGVs off the UK’s busiest roads annually creating better travelling conditions for motorists and reduce pollution.

Their argument also says that motoring costs are likely to increase by 36% by 2040 and that HS2 would bring a £billion a year benefit through economic benefit for all as rail would be cheaper than road for moving food and drink for the major retailers. The savings would come via cheaper food and drink prices in supermarkets.

The freight companies also say that it would help exports as taking automotive parts and produce to Europe through the Channel tunnel would also be cheaper boosting exports as they will become more competitive. Even Dr Beeching 50 years ago recognised the fact that bulk freight is best on rail and set up the modern day freight express services 50 years ago.

They said

John Smith, Managing Director of GB Railfreight, said:

“The Government has given considerable attention to the impact that HS2 will have on rail passengers but not enough time and energy has been spent considering the economic value of rail freight in the debate. Today's report by KPMG is very welcome as an important step in recognising the wider benefits of the high-speed network.

“By freeing up rail freight capacity on the West Coast Main Line, HS2 has the potential to radically transform the volume of goods moved around the country, resulting in a much-needed increase in UK productivity, an energetic growth in our exports market and relief for our congested road system.

“GB Railfreight calls on Network Rail to give equal attention to the opportunity for rail freight as for passenger trains when considering the allocation of the released capacity from HS2, and on the Government to consider the opportunity for rail freight as part of the overall business case.”

Starting date for direct services between London and Amsterdam announced

Eurostar has announced the starting date for its direct services between London St. Pancras and Amsterdam using its new Siemens built e320 Eurostar trains. They will start in December 2016 and will take around four hours, city centre to city centre.

These have been the subject of an Agreement signed by Dutch railways and Eurostar and announced by the Dutch Secretary of State for infrastructure and the environment as part of a package of measures to enhance the services on the Dutch high speed line.

Eurostar has been a standalone company for three years and is expanding its services which now reach the Swiss Alps and Provence in the South of France. They are now heading east representing as they say, a significant step forward in their expansion plans challenging the budget airlines.

Plane beating

Eurostar trains were supposed to operate between Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, York and Birmingham to Brussels and Paris from 1998. Despite trail running being completed, the newly growing budget airline business sunk the plans. But now with high speed running and the increasing cost if flying, high speed rail is competitive in journey-time terms for journeys up to 700 or 800 miles. This obviously includes comparing travel to and from airports and the long check-in times now required.

The London–Amsterdam route is the largest international airline market in Europe with over 3 million business and leisure passengers annually and in three years’ time, trains will challenge this market. The budget airlines’ traffic between London, Paris and Brussels has nosedived since November 2007 when St. Pancras opened and journey-times decreased. The same effect can be expected on this core route as services will offer a convenient alternative to flying.

There will be two trains a day in each direction to start with calling at Brussels, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Schiphol Airport and Amsterdam Centraal. The airport hub at Schiphol will therefore become another option for rail travellers from London.

They said

Nicolas Petrovic, Chief Executive of Eurostar, said: “We have long been ambitious for expansion to new destinations so today’s announcement marks a major advance in our growth plans. With over 3 million passengers travelling by air between London and Amsterdam, this is one of Europe’s most popular routes. Our fast, comfortable, point-to-point service will greatly enhance the links between the UK and the near continent, revolutionising travel between these important financial and tourist hubs.”

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