Memorandum by Dover Harbour Board (POR
The main railway line from Dover to London lies
immediately adjacent to the Western Docks at the Port of Dover.
Prior to the opening of the Channel Tunnel a direct link allowed
access from the main line to a group of sidings which served the
train ferry service from Dover to Dunkirk. With the perceived
ability to handle international rail freight more efficiently
through the Channel Tunnel the train ferry service was discontinued
and the rail link lifted in order to simplify the rail layout
and signalling in the area.
With the benefit of hindsight it is apparent
that the international freight business through the Tunnel has
not been able to flourish as anticipated. Freight volumes have
not grown significantly, at best only reaching three times the
volume handled by a single train ferry vessel ten years ago. Not
insignificant amongst the reasons for this is the low priority
placed upon freight by the French railways, where relatively slow
freight trains are sidelined to allow high-speed passenger operations.
In the meantime the freight traffic growth through
the Port of Dover has doubled in the seven-year period from 1994-01,
with a total of 1.8 million lorries passing through the port in
2001. No freight left the port by rail. The port anticipates a
further doubling of freight traffic in the next ten-year period
and is actively pursuing a reinstatement of the rail connection
to ease the burden on the nation's road system.
The geographical location of the port enables
the most cost-effective means of crossing the Channel, allowing
intensive use of the major assets employed (the majority of ferries
complete five return crossings per day). Without serious distortion
of the market (resulting in additional costs to UK businesses)
the freight traffic growth through Dover will continue unabated.
Current interruptions of freight movements through
the Tunnel underline the potential advantage of not being dependant
on only one short-sea route for rail freight to Europe. The advantages
of a second adjacent link, which does not necessarily have to
terminate in France, have been recognised by the Strategic Rail
Authority. The port is looking at a three-stage strategy:
Short term: Loading containers or
swap-bodies which have arrived in Dover by road onto rail wagons
for distribution inland
Medium term: Reintroduction of train
ferries sailing from Dover to Dunkirk (accessed by Belgian railways)
Longer term: Expansion of the port
on the western side to cater for additional rail-connected freight
arising from container and short sea shipping vessels.
These proposals would greatly assist the SRA
in reaching the target of 80 per cent growth in rail freight,
but have not yet been fully recognised in the strategic plan published
in 2002. It is understood that a South-East freight study is to
be undertaken in 2002-03, but infrastructure improvements are
not scheduled before 2006-10. In order to take full advantage
of the opportunities outlined above the inland route needs to
be cleared to W12 gauge. "Piggyback" gauge would offer
even further potential for diversion of freight to rail.