Select Committee on Transport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by English Welsh & Scottish Railway (REN 31)



  EWS is the UK's leading rail freight haulier, lifting over 100 million tonnes of freight and moving over 21 billion net tonne-kilometres of freight per annum, equivalent to more than nine million lorry journeys. Since 1995, EWS has invested some £750 million in new rolling stock, equipment and systems and together with that from other industry partners, the total commitment in rail freight from private sector sources is roundly £1 billion. This investment is continuing and—along with supportive Government transport and land-use planning policies—has helped rail freight's business to grow by 51% over the last six years, thus increasing rail's share of the UK surface freight market (ie road + rail) from under 6% to 11% today. Latest data show that volume growth is continuing at 8% per annum. This makes the rail freight industry well placed to meet the Government's target of 80% growth by 2010, as a means of reducing the impact of road congestion on the UK economy and environment.


  EWS is a significant stake-holder in the North of England, employing over 2,300 skilled and professional staff at thirty locations. Activities include train driving, yard staffing, locomotive and wagon maintenance, real-time operations, finance, administration and marketing. Our train operations nation-wide are supervised by the recently-enlarged Customer Service Delivery Centre (CSDC) at Doncaster. The centre employs 650 staff and makes EWS one of the biggest employers in an area where many jobs have been lost from traditional industries in recent years. Marketing and regional operations in the North West are managed from our offices at Warrington. EWS has a five-year, £200 million contract with the Thrall Europa to supply us with over two thousand new high-capacity freight wagons, that has provided a steady workload for their factory at York. The Wabtec Rail factory at Doncaster continues to benefit from orders for rebuilt and refurbished wagons.

  EWS serves much of the North of England's industry and business, ranging from mines, quarries, oil refineries and ports to iron and steel works, power stations, factories and warehouses. Freight is moved into, out from and within the North of England using the extensive rail network. International links are made through East and West Coast ports and EWS operates the freight trains which travel direct to and from the rest of Europe via the Channel Tunnel. Trainloads of bulk commodities (such as coal, ore, oil and crushed rock) typically have payloads in excess of 1,400 tonnes—the equivalent of 60 full-size lorryloads.

  The continuing success of rail freight in the region is dependent on the resolution of a number of national issues:

    —  Safeguarding the public sector share of the £4 billion investment in rail freight, promised in the Government's 10 Year Plan for Transport.

    —  Independent regulation of the industry.

    —  Retaining the 80% target for rail freight growth.

    —  Proper recognition of rail freight's economic and environmental benefits.

    —  No vertical integration of rail operations with infrastructure maintenance.

    —  A fit-for-purpose rail network, including a successor to Railtrack that recognises and responds to customers' requirements.


3.1  Power generation

  The movement by rail of coal to power stations remains vital to the economy of the North of England. Its importance is shown by our continuing investment in coal wagons and supporting systems. Earlier in June, EWS announced a further order worth nearly £20 million with the Thrall Car Company for more high-capacity, high-speed coal hopper wagons. These will bring the EWS fleet to well over 1,000. Thanks to the higher operating speed and load efficiency of these wagons compared with the equipment being replaced, EWS is able to move the same tonnage of coal with fewer trains, thus releasing scarce track capacity for future growth.

3.2  Steel

  Rail plays an integral role in the iron and steel industry. Direct connections to works on Teesside, at Scunthorpe and in South Yorkshire help EWS to move in bulk feedstock such as ore, coal, coke, scrap and limestone and take out semi-finished and finished steel products. Several flows are inter-works movements where rail is effectively part of the production line: the EWS "Steelwheel" service moves steel billet from the Corus plant at Scunthorpe to their Aldwarke mill, and the EWS "SteelBridge" flow between AvestaPolarit's Tinsley plant and their Swedish rolling mill via the DFDS terminal at AEP's port of lmmingham. Recent rationalisation of the industry have seen rail's involvement evolve: EWS now operates several trains a day moving bulk steel for Corus from Scunthorpe to Llanwern.

3.3  Petroleum and chemicals

  With support from the SRA's Freight Grant unit, direct rail access to Ineos Chlor Chemical's Runcorn plant was restored in March 2002 and EWS now moves caustic soda to Scotland. In April 2002, EWS commenced an intermodal service for TDG between Grangemouth and Trafford Park which conveys a range of products including petro-chemicals. Such flows are vital links in the production process and depend upon rail's reliability.

3.4  Automotive

  EWS moves large volumes of cars and car components, both exports and imports. In the North of England, EWS has been chosen by Jaguar to deliver its new X-type sports saloon from their Halewood plant to the Continent via the Channel Tunnel and the USA via Southampton. We also move cars on behalf of Nissan from the Port of Tyne to destinations on the Continent via the Channel Tunnel.

3.5  Premium freight

  Industry and business throughout the North of England are served by the high-speed trains operated by EWS which convey time-sensitive mail and parcels. A network of trains links the region with the rest of the UK, operating at speeds of up to 110 mph. Plans are well-advanced to raise this to 125 mph. Several key centres are served as well as three purpose-built facilities at Warrington, Doncaster and Gateshead.


  If EWS is to serve North of England's industry safely and reliably and to grow this activity in line with Government policy, then it is essential that the railway network provides the necessary capacity and capability. On many routes—such as the West Coast Main Line the East Coast Main Line—recent growth in both freight and passenger traffic has meant that they are now operating close to their capacity for much of the day. This makes it difficult for EWS to obtain additional slots to cater for new business, and also makes train working more vulnerable to disruption.

  EWS has invested heavily in new equipment such as faster, more powerful locomotives and high-capacity wagons which allow us to operate longer faster trains which make more efficient use of limited capacity. The SRA and Railtrack must play their part by providing additional infrastructure capacity so that more freight trains can run.

4.1  West Coast Main Line.

  This is the single most important UK mainline and is used by over 43% of all freight trains, particularly those conveying long-distance domestic and international traffic to and from the North West and Scotland. As the up grade project proceeds, EWS has been in close discussion with the SRA to ensure that present freight capacity is safe-guarded and future expansion of freight can be accommodated. We believe that enhanced capacity on the West Coast Main Line will require additional infrastructure, improved timetabling, upgraded traction, improved track standards (permitting higher speeds), a sympathetic maintenance strategy and fit-for-purpose diversionary routes.

4.2  East Coast Main Line.

  Unlike the West Coast Main Line up grade project, EWS has been able to participate in the East Coast Main Line up grade planning process from an early stage. We are happy that some of the lessons from the WCML project have been learned. The agreed specification should receive its share of the funding promised in the Government's 10 Year Plan for Transport and the agreed additional freight capacity (such as the reopened Leamside line and the upgraded Doncaster-Lincoln-Sleaford-Peterborough route) should be made available before any substantial increase in passenger services takes place.

4.3  South Humber Main Line.

  Some 20% of all UK freight tonnage is handled by the line between Immingham, Scunthorpe and South Yorkshire. Freight volumes continues to grow, to a large extent due to investment by Associated British Ports in rail facilities at Immingham, but the present infrastructure is acting as a constraint due to speed restrictions and signalling and other line capacity limitations. Investment is urgently required to address these issues by making some 30% more train pathways available, raising line-speeds and re-opening the route linking South Humberside with Gainsborough.

4.4  Trans-Pennine routes.

  Four lines link the North West with the North East and Yorkshire. Of these, the Manchester-Sheffield "Hope Valley" and Manchester-Leeds lines are in need of additional capacity and improved clearances respectively. Proposals by the SRA to increase passenger services on these routes but with modest infrastructure enhancements threaten to constrain the flexibility of existing freight operations and restrict future growth unless this work is carried out.

4.5  North West.

  Capacity in key parts of the railway network in Greater Manchester and Merseyside is barely adequate. The continued growth of bulk coal, steel scrap, finished steel and containers through Liverpool Docks requires the reinstatement of a north-to-east connection at Edge Hill so that trains may run direct to and from the port without reversal. Access to the EWS international intermodal railhead at Trafford Park is through Manchester Piccadilly station and is restricted to one freight train per hour.

  EWS efforts to increase train lengths in order to make better use of this very limited capacity depend upon the provision of upgraded trackwork at Trafford Park so that train speeds can be increased.


5.1  Ports

  Fourteen of the North of England's ports have rail facilities and serve their hinterland via the UK rail network. Almost all have regular EWS freight trains while the remainder is available for rail use at short notice. Included are three of the UK's top 10 ports in terms of tonnage handled: Grimsby & Immingham (1st) Tees & Hartlepool (2nd) and Liverpool (8th). lmmingham is the single biggest generator of EWS business and with these other two ports, provides 25% of our business by volume. A wide range of freight is handled through North of England ports, ranging from bulk commodities such as coal and iron ore to bulk finished products such as steel and chemical feedstock and high-value finished goods such as new cars, specialist steel, and newsprint. EWS moves these by a combination of block trains and shared-user services, the latter using Warrington and Doncaster as regional hubs.

  Several ports in the North of England also play a role as railheads where freight is purely trans-shipped between rail and road. Ports have many of the attributes of successful rail freight terminals: good road and rail access, skilled staff and handling equipment, and covered and open storage capacity. The Ports of Tyne and Workington have grown their trans-shipment business substantially over the last decade from almost nothing to become key sub-regional railheads. Close working relationships with the North of England's ports have helped rail to play a bigger part in their business: investment by the port companies in railway access and facilities on their estate is vital to this and matches the commitment made by EWS in new locomotives and rolling stock and by the SRA in improved rail infrastructure.

5.2  Terminals

  For rail freight to thrive and expand, access to customers is essential. Most of the North of England's oil refineries, coal-fired power stations, coal mines and steel works have direct rail access, as do some larger quarries and chemical plants. These rail connections eliminate the need for intermediate road movements between railhead and customer's site and keep millions of lorry journeys off the North of England's roads every year.

  Many end-users have insufficient volumes of business to justify their own direct rail access and are reached instead via shared-user railheads with the final stage being made by road. A number of these facilities have been established in the North of England, such as those at Doncaster (ADL), Knowsley and Selby (Potter Group), Salford (Creative Logistics), Widnes (AHC and O'Connor) and Wakefield (Cobra). In February 2002, EWS lodged a planning application for a £65 million road-rail distribution hub at Tinsley, serving South Yorkshire. As well as removing thousands of lorry journeys from the region's roads, the scheme will provide over 1,000 new jobs and give the local and regional economies a major boost.

5.3  Channel Tunnel

  As the European Union expands and as manufacturing and distribution becomes more globally-based, the need for the North of England to have fast, efficient and reliable access to the continent and—via deep-water ports—the rest of the world. With road congestion increasing—both in the North and also further south such as in the West Midlands and Greater London—the importance of rail freight is growing. EWS serves the North of England's ports, while through freight trains access the rest of Europe via the Channel Tunnel. These Channel Tunnel trains serve the EWS intermodal railheads at Trafford Park (serving the North West) and Wakefield (serving Yorkshire) as well as several other freight terminals for freight moved in conventional wagons. Since November 2001, these services have been severely disrupted by the attempts of asylum seekers to gain entry to the UK, despite every effort on the part of EWS and its customers to persuade the Government to tackle the problem through its opposite numbers in France. Latest proposals by the French government promise action but not until November 2002—far too late.

  EWS will be happy to discuss these issues in greater detail.

7 June 02

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003
Prepared 11 July 2003