Examination of Witnesses (Questions 8700
8700. As an outsider, I would be more concerned
about the number of containers you can shift.
(Mr Bennett) Absolutely. The pricing basis
for much rail container freight activity is a price per containerit
might be a price per train movedbut in terms of system
use and network use, a tonne/kilometre, which is a measure of
the output of the rail freight industry, is a reasonable measure.
8701. LORD BERKELEY: Mr Bennett, could
you possibly look at it in a slightly different way? Tonnage is
different, whether it is coal or containers, but there is still
a weight involved and there is still a distance. A truck probably
gets charged by tonne or truck/kilometre, so would you agree that
it is the best comparison one can make between, possibly, the
It is certainly the best comparison one can make between the use
of the road-alone transport network, my Lord.
8702. LORD SNAPE: Before we move on,
I think Lord James's point is: is tonne/kilometre a fair way of
judging growth in rail freight? I am thinking, for example, of
the coal market, which has changed considerably over recent years;
much of it is now imported and, therefore, I would imagine, travels
a lot further than it did when it came out of an indigenous coalmine.
That would reflect in that 60 per cent but it does not necessarily
mean you are carrying much more traffic; you are just taking the
same stuff longer.
8703. LORD BERKELEY: I have just been
informed or reminded that the Government uses the tonne/kilometre
measure in all such calculations. I think if we start telling
8704. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: So they
are very unreliable!
8705. LORD SNAPE: Given Lord James's
political activity I do not think that is a very wise comment
to make, to be honest!
If I could say: as we said, there is not a perfect measure, but
if we take tonne/kilometres, the point, as Lord Snape has said,
is that distance can impact on the total number. If you do not
take distance into account, then the growth of lighter weight
traffic is masked by fluctuations in heavier weight traffic. So
therefore growth in containerised freight can be masked by fluctuations
8706. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: I think
my concern was that if you have got a train full of coal, once
you have got it loaded and you have started to run the train,
it really does not matter whether you are going to Penzance or
whether you are going just one stop down the line, because you
have done it; you are on the rail and you are running, and it
is not particularly an indicator of the growth impact on the burden
of delivery and what you are trying to do commercially.
If we took containers, for example, where the ports are relatively
fixed and the demand points are relatively fixed, and that growth
in tonne/kilometres (which I will come on to later) and which
Mr Cann will talk about in terms of train numbers, I think that
is probably a good measure of a real increase in demand. The average
distance hauled will not have changed very much, so a growth in
tonne/kilometres for containerised freight is a fair representation
of underlying growth in the number of containers moved by rail,
as opposed to a distortion.
8707. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: Thank
you. I will not press it any further; I will try and understand
as we go.
8708. LORD BERKELEY: Mr Bennett, you
were going to tell us a little bit about the expected growth.
The next slide, number 6.
(Mr Bennett) There is now a reasonable consensus
around rail freight traffic growth over the period to 2015. The
consensus view is that (and apologies, this is in tonnes/kilometre)
the total tonne/kilometres will grow by around 30 per cent. That
figure is agreed by the Rail Freight Operating Companies and by
Network Rail, who have analysed business plans and looked at customer-by-customer
intentions, and the Rail Freight Group and the Freight Transport
Association, who have used the GBFM forecasting model described
earlier, to undertake their own analysis on the independent assumptions.
We converge on a view that rail freight traffic is expected to
grow by 30 per cent to 2015.
8709. Does the Government do forecasts of rail
freight growth, or has the Government accepted these figures?
(Mr Bennett) The Government does not do
forecasts of rail freight growth because it believes that rail
freight output should be the result of competitive negotiations
between clients and suppliers, but in the Rail White Paper in
July 2007 it incorporated 30 per cent growth as a view of the
future, and Department of Transport representatives at the Crossrail
Track Access Option hearing confirmed that 30 per cent growth
represented a reasonable planning basis for the railway network.
8710. What happens in the longer term, after
(Mr Bennett) Again using the tonne/kilometre
measure, we project that rail freight between 2005-06 and 2030
will grow by 115 per cent. That is more than double. With particular
reference to the commodities that traverse routes also served
by Crossrail services, we project a 330 per cent growth in containerised
freight traffic. In effect, that means that, broadly, four times
the current volume of containerised freight traffic will be carried
in 2030 than today, and that for the construction materials traffic
(which, I apologise, is omitted from the slide) there will be
40 per cent growth.
8711. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: In your
slide 5 you refer to £1.5 billion of private sector investment.
Is that principally rolling stock and craneage?
Principally rolling stock. It will include some investment in
cranes, in container terminals and it will include some investment
in IT systems.
8712. Do you have a figure for rolling stock?
(Mr Bennett) I can obtain one.
8713. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: That
would appear to indicate capacity more than anything else. It
might be helpful to know.
8714. LORD BERKELEY: Mr Bennett, would
it not be the case that quite a lot of existing rolling stock
would be used and, also, better utilisation of rolling stock?
Is there a connection between the two?
There is an indirect connection. There is existing rolling stock
which is being used more effectively. Some of this rolling stock
is growth. Some, for example, are modern locomotives, from which
much higher outputs can be obtained, replacing existing locomotives.
The £1.5 billion is not directly incremental but it represents
a very substantial increase in the productive potential of the
8715. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: At some
point in this presentation, Lord Berkeley, are we going to receive
some indication of the additional rolling stock which will be
required by the extension of the resources created by Crossrail?
8716. LORD BERKELEY: In terms of the
construction of Crossrail, in terms of aggregate delivery, that
is easy enough to answer. Crossrail otherwise is not going to
increase the amount of freight; it might even decrease it if things
go wrong, but it is not going to have a great effect, apart from
the materials. Mr McLaughlin can speak about that when he gives
evidence. Mr Bennett, you have shown the growth figures in slide
6, which are pretty high. How is it planned by Government, Network
Rail and anyone else to accommodate this growth? Slide 7, please.
(Mr Bennett) Thank you, Lord Berkeley. What
I also should have said, of course, is that the growth in containerised
freight traffic very much reflects the investment decisions by
the private sector in expanded port capacity and the Government's
forecasts of port throughput as well. So our forecasts were not
undertaken in a policy vacuum. What is necessary is an increase
in the capacity of the rail network (that is the ability to run
more freight trains), an increase in the capability of key sections
of the rail network, so that the freight trains that are run can
be longer, can be heavier, they can carry higher gauge containers
on standard wagons, which means the train productivity is higher,
and that the network should be resilient and inter-connected,
so that a number of routes could be capable of carrying the new
nine-foot-six containers on standard rail wagons.
8717. LORD JAMES OF BLACKHEATH: Lord
Berkeley, if we are going to go that far somebody ought to tell
us quite soon what you have to do to make a railway capable of
taking freight that it cannot otherwise, because we have not got
any idea what you have to do.
8718. LORD BERKELEY: My Lord Chairman,
I was about to ask my witness that question. The word "resilience"
is something which is not necessarily well-known to the Committee
in terms of rail freight. Mr Bennett, you mentioned gauge and
we have discussed that. Perhaps you could just go through the
gauges and the need for a nine-foot gauge to take nine-foot-six
containers, the need to have longer trains, which means longer
sidings, perhaps, or whatever else you may propose. You mentioned
resilience. Does that mean having a diversion route for when these
lines are closed for maintenance and things like that? In other
words, the general view of what is needed to take this extra growth.
Thank you, my Lord. To make a route fit for freight, for example,
if we are talking about heavy freight trainsconstruction
materialsthen in some cases it may be simply to do with
relaying or improving the quality of track or strengthening underlying
bridges to allow wagons with heavier axle-loads to operate. However,
for containers, which is the subject of most interest, it probably
means it will often be increasing the clearances of structures
on a route either by lowering track or by increasing the aperture
through which the train runs. In the worst case, nine-foot-six
containers can be carried on specialised rail wagons on routes
where the structures have not been enlarged to permit the use
of standard wagons, where Network Rail's own calculations indicate
that the productivity dis-benefit per train is around 33 per cent.
In effect, you can carry 33 per cent less containers on a single
container train if you have to use specialised Well wagons than
if you can use standard wagons. So the productivity gains of enhancing
a gauge are very significant. That is the principal issue. That
gives the cross-sectional improvement. Lord Berkeley asked about
train lengths. Very often the lengths of loading or discharge
sidings and the lengths of loop sidings en route where freight
trains can be parked temporarily
8719. Is the Committee clear what a "loop"
(Mr Bennett) For sidings in which a train
can be recessed, or parked, temporarily for traffic regulation
purposes to allow faster trains to pass, the maximum length of
the freight train may often be limited by the maximum length of
that loop. So the question is, for example, can the loop be extended,
or can the train schedule be investigated such that the need for
using the loop is eliminated? These are the sort of sequential
processes that we go through. So to make a route fit for freight,
as Lord James asked, one needs to consider the cross-sectional
capability (tunnels and bridges), one needs to consider train
speedsare there locations where, because of infrastructure
problems, trains are slowed down and have to accelerate, losing
money and time and, in effect, imposing a capacity limitationand
are there train length restrictions? Are there locations that
limit the maximum length of the train which could be relaxed to
allow more productivity, more cargo to be carried, per train?
6 Committee Ref: A52, The future of rail freight (LINEWD-34_05-007) Back
Committee Ref: A52, Accommodating the growth (LINEWD-34_05-008) Back