High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Written evidence from the Rail Freight Group (HSR 13)

The Rail Freight Group (RFG) has been the UK’s leading rail freight trade association since its formation in 1990. It has more than 120 corporate members active in all sectors of rail freight from ports, terminal operators, customers, through to operators and suppliers. RFG's aim is to grow the volume of goods moved by rail, delivering environment and economic benefits for the UK.

Further information on the RFG : www.rfg.org.uk .

RFG’s view on the Bill

From the outset, Rail Freight Group has been a strong supporter of HS2. With capacity becoming ever more scarce on the West and East Coast Main lines, and with strong forecasts of future freight and passenger growth focussed on the city regions, it is clear that investment to provide new capacity is essential.

Indeed, growth in rai l freight provides an important part of the justification for HS2. Recent studies have demonstrated the scale of the potential benefits, with Greengage 21’s report into the carbon impacts of HS2 (http://www.greengauge21.net/publications/the-carbon-impacts-of-hs2/) concluding that The carbon savings from using the additional unclaimed capacity of three train paths per hour in each direction for freight are considerably larger still, adding 55% to the direct carbon savings from HS2. This is such a strong advantage that it will be worthwhile examining complementary measures to ensure that a major switch from HGV road haulage to rail freight is achieved as a consequence of HS2.

Research by WSP (http://www.wspgroup.com/en/Welcome-to-WSP-UK/WSP-UK/Press-centre-UK/?item=20665) also foun d similar results, stating that ‘HS2 could take 500,000 HGV lorry journeys off the M1, M40 and M6 motorways each year leading to environmental benefits worth over £45 million per annum and saving over 65,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per annum’.

With such significant conclusions, it is clearly imperative that Government ensures that the development and operation of the route allows rail freight benefits to be delivered in practice as well as in principle. Although the opening of the route is still many years away, this framework needs to be understood as part of the dialogue around the Hybrid Bill, expected later this year.

The Network Rail Freight Market Study, presently out for consultation, shows that significant growth in rail freight is forecast, in particular in domestic and deep sea intermodal services , which are significant users and potential users of the North London Line and WCML. If this growth is not met by rail, the traffic will go by road.

So, although supporting this solution to the challenge of growth, there are elements of the c urrent proposal that concern us:

1. T he inadequacy of the proposed link with HS1 . This has been revised as part of HS2 ’s Design Refinement Consultation , but is still not fit for purpose, since it limits capacity to the existing volume of freight traffic, and also limit s future options for the development of the conventional rail infrastructu re. An effective cap at existing levels is unacceptable in that context. The freight link to the WCML is also frequently used for recessing trains waiting for paths on the main line. The proposals would limit this capability and could therefore be expected to have performance impacts, even at existing levels of freight service.

2. T here is currently a failure to consider the effect of the HS2 trains which join the WCML around Tamworth; although these are understood to be a straight substitution for the current Virgin services on the WCML, there is likely to be additional passenger trains to serve stations such as Blackpool and Chester, and HS2 is believed to have promised Milton Keynes a very frequent high speed service to compensate their passengers for not having a station on HS2. We need an indicative timetable to be produced to show how all these trains, together with local passenger services and the increased freight traffic, can be accommodated on the WCML. If this cannot be done, then we will suggest to the Select Committee considering petitions in the main Hybrid Bill that the promoters be required to produce this so that the effect of HS2 on other services can be discussed.

3. In respect of this High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill states in Clause 1 :

The network referred to in subsection (1) is a network which-

(a) involves the construction of railway lines connecting at least-



the East Midlands,


Leeds, and

Manchester, and

(b) connects with the existing railway transport network.

It is not clear to us whether this actually includes expenditure on the HS1-2 link. We urge the Committee to seek confirmation from Government on this.

Thus, we support the proposal to construct HS2 as the most achievable means of bringing additional capacity on that corridor. We are seeking to discuss and resolve as many issues as possible, including those summarised here, with the DfT to avoid the need to petition, but will have little alternative in the absence of agreement.

July 2013

Prepared 16th July 2013