Select Committee on Transport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by English Welsh & Scottish Railway

  This is English Welsh & Scottish Railway's (EWS) submission into the UK ports industry. We appreciate the opportunity to make a submission at this stage of the inquiry.

  The inquiry should highlight the need to focus on improved connectivity between shipping and inland transport with the port sitting at the interface between the two. The specific interest of the rail industry, in a nation that is increasing its trading base rather than its manufacturing base, is to ensure that the ports industry treats modes in an even-handed way.


  EWS is the largest UK rail freight operator. We move over 100 million tonnes of freight a year, employ 4,800 staff and have invested over £600 million in rail freight over the last 10 years. EWS is part of a rail freight industry that has seen 70% growth since 1995 and is forecasting another 50% growth by 2014. Rail freight provides a sustainable means of moving goods to, from and in the United Kingdom. Moving freight by rail causes between one quarter and one tenth of the emissions created by moving the same freight by road.

  Over half of the freight moved by EWS is to and from UK ports including coal from Immingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Hunterston, containers from Felixstowe and Southampton and iron ore from Immingham. Other commodities that we move to and from ports are cars, car parts, chemicals, aggregates and steel.

  The Channel Tunnel should also be regarded as a port given the volume of rail and road, freight and passenger traffic that moves through the tunnel.

  Many of the UK's ports by built and developed by the railway companies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the integration of the rail and port facilities was a critical factor in their success. We would hope that the Committee's inquiry will recognise the importance to the competitiveness of the UK economy of restoring the link between port and rail. For the UK to be competitive it needs a competitive ports industry where ports are competing with each other to provide a high quality of service at low prices. We are not convinced that this is the case.

  Port operators must learn to use their assets efficiently to allow the quickest possible turn round of goods and transport assets. By achieving quicker turn rounds it becomes possible to increase throughput—a recent study of a major port identified the opportunity to accommodate 14 additional trains if a standard two hour turn round was achieved.


  To be competitive ports need to provide access on equal terms to both road and rail modes and to deal with all transport operators in an even-handed manner. Given that the port is an intermediary between the end customer and the transport operator it must remain strictly neutral in its transhipment role and not seek to favour one mode over another or one operator over another. Recent legislative changes have reinforced the need for ports to act in a non-discriminatory manner.

  Port railways that were not owned and/or operated by the British Railways Board immediately prior to April 1994 were exempt from the access provisions of the Railways Act 1993. This meant that a Freight Operator did not have the regulatory protection of being able to approach ORR to secure access and reasonable charges if the Port Operator either did not want to grant access or wanted to grant access but only on unreasonable terms. EU Directive 2001/14, as part of the First Package of railway directives, was designed with the aim to open up the European Community railways to open access including many facilities that had previously been exempt from access under national legislation.

  EU Directive 2001/14 was transposed into UK law by means of "The Railways Infrastructure (Access & Management) Regulations 2005" in November 2005. Under these Regulations (Regulation 6), a Freight Operator is entitled to track access and the supply of services in ports linked to the national railway network which serve, or potentially serve, more than one final customer. Requests for access and the supply of services must be granted in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner and can only be refused by if viable alternatives by rail under market conditions exist. If these entitlements are not supplied, then a Freight Operator is entitled to make an appeal to Office of Rail Regulation under Regulation 29. The services that a Port is required to supply would include, access, use of loading/unloading facilities (ie cranes etc), shunting, access for relevant road vehicles and any other rail related service.

  Notwithstanding the above, Port railways that were owned and/or operated by BRB immediately prior to April 1994 would be covered by the open access provisions contained in the Railways Act 1993 so any access contracts agreed at such Ports would be subject to ORR approval. A Freight Operator could appeal to ORR under Section 17 or 22A of the Act if it considered it was being unfairly treated or discriminated against.

  The Committee may wish to consider whether the ports industry is fully aware of the implications of this legislation and is applying it in practice.

  Port handling charges provide a mechanism for discriminating between modes and between operators. It is essential for the lift charges levied on rail operators to be the same as those levied on road hauliers. Charges between operators should be the same for the same type of service. The Committee may wish to consider whether a form of price regulation should be introduced to ensure compliance.


  The Channel Tunnel represents the port with the greatest potential for expansion, whether by shuttle or international rail freight services.

  The outcome of recent discussions has meant that rail freight services have been able to continue to operate beyond the ending of historic financial arrangements between the UK Government and EWS. However, this can only be an interim arrangement as the level of tolls still exceeds the charges the market can bear. Rail freight operators and Eurotunnel will need to agree affordable tolls if the potential of the Channel Tunnel is to be realised.


  Rail access to ports should be improved—the UK suffers from limitations in rail capacity (number of train paths) and rail capability (loading gauge). New port facilities are being considered with limited regard for rail infrastructure requirements.


  The Humberside Ports include Immingham to the South of the Humber and Hull to the North. These ports primarily import coal for onward rail freight movement, with investment by ABP in HIT2 (Humber International Terminal Stage 2) ongoing, with completion in 2006. Rail can use the route to greater effect by expanding the capacity of the two routes and providing greater route capability. The route availability should be raised to RA10 throughout, and speed restrictions tackled to raise overall line speed

    —  Re-open Brigg line—additional capacity.

    —  Hull Docks—Line speed, capacity and train length.

    —  Hull to Doncaster—increase axle-weight capability.

    —  Remove Temporary Speed Restrictions.

    —  Immingham to Doncaster—Bi-directional signalling, additional loops, remove speed restrictions, capacity improvements, remodel Wrawby junction.


  Felixstowe, Ipswich and Bathside Bay at Harwich comprise the Haven Ports. Currently planning inquiries are underway for the development of Felixstowe and the opening of Bathside Bay as container terminals. These would see an expansion of container traffic through each port. The route from Felixstowe to the WCML via London and the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) is cleared for W10 traffic allowing rail to convey 9 foot 6 inch Maritime ISO containers on standard freight wagons. This route is busy with other passenger and freight services.

  An alternative route avoiding London and using quieter lines is via Ely, Peterborough and Leicester to join the WCML at Nuneaton. Extending gauge capability between Water Orton and Bescot would provide a link into the heart of the West Midlands and an alternative route to the WCML when Nuneaton is closed for engineering works. Felixstowe to Nuneaton would also require modest capacity works.

  The existing route via the North London Line is congested by freight and passenger services. The road network including the North circular and M25 are also very congested. A capacity enhancement would benefit all freight and passenger trains. The route has a mixture of two, three and four tracks with only some line electrified with AC power required by freight. An enhancement to the electrification of the route would provide flexibility in routing and contribute to additional capacity.

  The enhancements are:

    —  Provide enhanced gauge capability between Felixstowe and Nuneaton via Leicester, and via Sutton Park.

    —  Capacity improvements including Bi-directional capability at Ely West curve and Felixstowe branch.

    —  Capacity improvements on the North London Line.


  The Port of Southampton anticipates significant growth although expansion plans at Dibden Bay were turned down. This is the second largest container port in the UK. Rail can convey 8 foot 6 inch containers, or 9 foot 6 inch containers in special and inefficient wagons. It does not have the ability to convey 9 foot 6 inch Maritime ISO containers on standard freight wagons. The capability to run longer trains will allow rail to convey more containers for each train and mainly requires enhance loop length. Capacity enhancements will also be required around Reading and Basingstoke, to allow the trains to thread their way around these congested nodes.

  The enhancements are:

    —  Provide enhanced gauge capability between Southampton and the West Midlands/West Coast Main Line.

    —  Freight loop around Basingstoke.

    —  Capacity and length enhancement to Reading West curve.

    —  Longer loops between Southampton and Reading.


  Birkenhead, Seaforth and Garston comprise the Merseyside Ports. Birkenhead is not currently rail connected, so road congestion will build as the port develops. Seaforth rail capacity is restricted by the need to make a run round manoeuvre at Edge Hill. This also uses capacity inefficiently on the Liverpool to Manchester line, leading to performance issues. Reinstating the direct link, called the Olive Mount Chord, and eliminating the run round will increase capacity and performance. The port also receives container traffic. None of these move by rail, as there is no W10 clearance. The route is only a short distance form the West Coast Main Line, which is already W10 cleared, linking Liverpool with Scotland, the West Midlands and London.

  Enhancement proposals:

    —  Reconnect Birkenhead Docks to rail network.

    —  Reinstate Olive Mount Chord to remove capacity conflicts between freight and passenger services.

    —  Gauge clearance between Seaforth and WCML.


  The planning inquiry to turn the site of the former Shellhaven Oil refinery on the Thames, east of London, into a container terminal is complete. The Minister is minded to approve the scheme. This will add to local and regional congestion without adequate enhancement of the rail network. The route is already W10 gauge cleared. There are two routes that could be used around London. The first via Stratford requires freight trains to cross all four tracks of the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML), and then the congested North London Line (NLL). The alterative route uses the Tottenham and Hampstead route, which is grade separated from the GEML and avoids the NLL. The route would require gauge enhancement to convey the containers. Electrification, limited structure strengthening and some minor capacity works would allow the route to accept all Shellhaven trains, and avoid the other route.

  Enhancement proposals:

    —  Provide gauge clearance.

    —  Electrification.

    —  Capacity works.

    —  Structure works.


  The traditional routes between Dollands Moor and Wembley have different capability. The Sevenoaks route is not cleared to W9, which restricts the maintenance strategy and causes capacity issues on the Brighton Main Line. A range of minor works around the West London Line would improve capacity, such as speed at Falcon Junction at Clapham Junction, strengthening Chelsea Bridge and an additional loop at Kensington Olympia.

  The opening of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) in 2007 will allow European gauge freight to run from Europe, through the Channel Tunnel and into East London. It will then connect with the UK network, which currently is not cleared to European gauge. An extension of the Down Goods line at Ripple Lane will also assist a smooth transition between the two networks.

  Enhancement proposals:

    —  Provide gauge clearance via Sevenoaks.

    —  Minor capacity works around West London Line.

    —  European gauge clearance from Barking to Wembley, Birmingham and Manchester.

    —  Ripple Lane extensions.


  The Grain Branch links the North Kent line with the Port at Thamesport. The capacity is restrictive with only train permitted to run at a time. Any expansion of services would require capacity enhancements for the line, which could include higher line speeds; additional loops; signalling enhancement; and level crossing works.

30 November 2006

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