Supplementary memorandum by the Strategic
Rail Authority (P37A)
MAJOR PORTS AND THE WORK OF THE STRATEGIC
This paper follows that submitted by the SRA
on 27 February 2001 about Major Ports, and the oral evidence given
by the Chairman and the Chief Executive on 1 May about the work
of the Strategic Rail Authority.
1. WHAT PROPORTION
The precise figure of rail freight travelling
to and from ports is not calculated, but is estimated to be around
50 per cent. Ports play an increasingly important role in the
supply chain, as globalisation becomes a more prominent feature
of trade and products are sourced from around the world as readily
as from local manufacturers. Global logistics are very much a
reality and thus it is vital that the ports themselves are provided
with efficient and cost-effective transport links to the market.
A key part of the Authority's freight strategy
is concerned with the movement of freight to and from ports and
as the economy grows, without a corresponding increase in the
UK's manufacturing base, this traffic inevitably assumes an increasing
degree of importance. In order to achieve the government's freight
modal shift objectives, as outlined in the Ten Year Plan, it is
essential that an increasing percentage of this business is moved
by rail. The Government's Policy Paper on UK Ports"Modern
Ports"of November, states clearly on pages 28
and 29 that port freight is important to the rail industry, especially
for bulk cargoes and containers.
(a) What discussions have you had with ports
operators, and with rail freight companies, about improving rail
linkes to the major container ports in particular? How enthusiastic
are ports operators that rail links to their ports are improved?
Port operators are increasingly keen to see
improvements in rail access and in the rail network more generally,
recognising both the Government's desire to see modal shift towards
rail and the constraints of road haulage as road congestion worsens
and the availability of HGV drivers continues to be a problem.
This is likely to be exacerbated when Working Time Directive is
applied to road haulage within the next three years. It is possible
that, for future major port developments, planning authority will
be granted on the condition that a specified percentage of traffic
must be moved by rail. The Authority's freight team is working
currently on a number of schemes to improve connections to ports
or to reconnect ports to the rail network and is also working
closely with other partners on new port projects where additional
demands on rail capacity will be made by the flows generated by
The Authority has a designated officer with
responsibility for developing international business via the ports
and the Channel Tunnell. Regular liason meetings take place with
individual ports and the two trade associations representing them.
Meetings have been held with Felixstowe, Bristol, Portsmouth,
Dover, Killingholme, Immingham and Thamesport with a view to identifying
means of increasing rail-borne traffic. Meetings are also held
with existing and potential freight train operators.
The Authority is considering a number of applications
from ports for Freight Facilities Grants to invest in facilities
designed to transfer freight from road to rail, from Kings Lynn,
Workington, Immingham, Port of Tyne, Boston, Sheerness, Seaham
It is recognised that, in order to justify investment,
there needs to be a critical mass of traffic with the potential
to move by rail which, inevitably precludes some of the smaller
ports from obtaining a link to the rail network, but there is,
nevertheless, increasing evidence that port operators are keen
to see rail links developed and improved.
(b) What should the response of the railway
be to the increasing height of containers? How much will it cost
to increase the gauge of the railway to accommodate large containers?
Currently around 19 per cent of containers are
9'6" in height and this proportion is increasing as existing
8'6" boxes are replaced by larger units. Estimates vary,
but it is generally considered that over 90 per cent of containers
will be of 9'6" in height by 2020 at the latest. If rail
is to remain in the container movement business, there must be
the capability to move such boxes on key routes.
These containers can only be moved currently
in the UK on special low "well" wagons, which effectively
reduce the payload of containers per train and significantly reduce
rail's competitive position with road. Road hauliers can carry
either type of box on the same vehicles.
The Authority has commissioned studies to identify
the costs associated with enhancing the gauge to "W12"
(the 9'6" container gauge with capacity for 2.6 metre width)
on two key routesfrom Felixstowe to the North West via
Ely and Nuneaton and from Southampton to Birmingham via Didcot.
These studies will identify the costs of the gauge enhancement
It is forecast that container traffic will continue
to grow significantlyprobably by 50 per cent by 2010and
the objective of the studies is to identify the cost and means
of delivering a substantial increase in rail capacity as well
as gauge enhancement.
(c) What prospect is there of "piggyback"
services, with semi-trailers being carried on rail wagons, being
introduced in the United Kingdom? Which particular routes should
be served by such services?
"Piggyback" gauge is only an issue
on routes to and from Cross Channel and Irish Sea ports. The Authority
has, at present, no definitive plans to provide for "piggyback"
services to and from these locations. Studies are, however, currently
being undertaken to identify the incremental cost involved in
extending from "W12" to "W18" gauge, to facilitate
the passage of 4 metre semi-trailers, on routes between the East
Coast ports and the North West (Trans-Pennine) and between the
Channel Tunnel/Dover and London. In parallel, other work is being
carried out to determine the likely revenues that would be generated
by such enhancement.
2. TO WHAT
The unpredictable nature of port traffic, where
shipping lines can and do switch business between ports represents
a serious issue as far as rail investment is concerned.
Investment in links to ports is subject to the
same value for money assessments that are applied to other areas.
In the case of container traffic, for example, the growth, based
on previous experience and sound economic forecasting techniques,
can be forecast with some accuracy, although there still remains
the ability of shipping lines to switch between ports in the UK
and, indeed, on the continent. For Roll-On-Roll-Off traffic, growth
can be forecast with equal accuracy, but bulk cargoes tend to
have an inherently greater degree of uncertainty, especially in
the case of relatively smaller ports.
In addition to the customary value for money
examinations, we also take care to assess the possibility of traffic
switching from a port where significant investment is sought and
the impact of such moves. The Freight Facilities Grant process
incorporates safeguards but investment in the rail network itself
presents a more difficult position which is recognised in the
The volume of traffic, in total, will continue
to grow, but there will undoubtedly be variations between ports
and this is assessed as individual investments are considered.
3. WHAT IS
There are a number of schemes already under
investigation through the Freight Facilities Grant and the network
investment programme, which are detailed below.
upgrade of the link between Felixstowe
and the West Coast Main Line at Nuneaton
upgrade of the route between Southampton
gauge enhancement between Channel
Tunnel/Dover and London
gauge enhancement on the Trans-Pennine
re-instatement of the link between
Dover and the rail network
an inter-modal facility in Portsmouth
for port and other traffic
re-instatement of the link to Kings
Lynn (initially for non-port traffic)
investment in new facilities at the
Humber International Terminal at Immingham
improvement of the rail facilities
at Thamesport and on the Isle of Grain branch line
re-instatement of the rail link to
Portbury Docks and upgrading of rail facilities at the following
In addition to the investments being considered,
it is anticipated that work will shortly be proceeding at Thamesport
on the Isle of Grain in Kent, with a view to completion in November
2001, to introduce much needed flexibility for the various traffic
17 May 2001