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A14 Challenge

Freight on Rail would like to thank the DfT for the opportunity to comment on the A14 challenge.

Overall, we believe the research has taken a unnecessarily pessimistic view of the role rail freight can play in resolving the long distance congestion and accident problems on the A14 corridor, without the data to support this argument.
The Government research must look at a multi modal solution to the whole A14 corridor and not just look at the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon. Freight makes up to 40% of the traffic on some sections of the A14 so expanding rail freight which has a parallel route could help relieve long distance road congestion and reduce accidents.  The rail capacity upgrade, with impressive cost benefit ratios and cross industry support 1, offers a low carbon, energy-efficient safer alternative to remove long distance lorry movements from the A14.

Rail can offer a low carbon, energy-efficient safe alternative to long distance road transport which can deliver impressive cost benefit ratios. Freight on Rail response concentrates on the benefits of upgrading the rail route. However, in terms of the road solution we would like to point out that the congestion impact on local roads of major road tolling has to be factored in as evidence shows that tolling diverts traffic onto local roads.

The benefits of the second phase of upgrading the F2N will also result in wider economic, safety and environmental benefits beyond the A14 corridor to the West and East Midlands, the North West and Scotland as the works will develop the routes beyond the corridor.

Benefits of upgrading the rail route
Funded gauge enhancements and limited stage 1 capacity enhancements on the direct route between Felixstowe and Nuneaton, as part of the Strategic Rail Freight Network, will be completed by 2014. The stage 1 funded enhancements will provide the capability for larger 9ft 6 in containers bound for the Midlands, and the North to be carried on normal wagons from Felixstowe to Nuneaton directly  instead of having to go via the gauge cleared London route. However the as yet unfunded capacity upgrades F2N are needed to fully exploit this direct route.

A further benefit of this project would be the release of valuable capacity on the London route for forecasted freight traffic growth from Tilbury and London Gateway. Furthermore, the released rail capacity via London will enable some of the Tilbury and London Gateway traffic to go by rail instead of adding to further A14 congestion.

Synergy of passenger and freight upgrades
Signalling upgrades at Leicester will benefit both passenger and freight services
The case for upgrading the rail route
Currently, there are 29 trains in and out of Felixstowe with each of those trains removing up to 60 long distance HGVs from the route. However, there is considerable suppressed demand for rail out of the port because of the limitations of the rail network. So if the extra capacity, which is part of a joint rail freight industry submission (IIP) to enhance the Strategic Rail Freight Network, were provided, 50 daily trains could operate in and out of the port each day resulting in the removal of 40 million long distance lorry miles from the A14 corridor per annum with rail’s share increasing from around 25 to up to 40%. The cost of the full capacity upgrades is circa  £150 million. The stage 2 plans are in the Initial Industry Plan  (IIP) for delivery in 2014-19 CP5, and the Government has an opportunity to authorise these plans in the HLOS which it is due to publish in July 2012.

Stage 2 of F2N includes the following:

  • Double tracking Ely-Soham (subsequently announced in the Autumn Statement
  • Syston resignalling
  • 4 tracking Syston-Wigston
  • Grade separation of Wigston North Junction (allows freight to cross the Midland Mainline to get towards Nuneaton without conflicting with passenger services)
  • Gauge clearance Syston-Stoke (provides an alternative route to the WCML and would relieve capacity on the WCML between Nuneaton and Crewe although sending more freight this way route create capacity issues with passenger services). Also announced in the Autumn statement.

Example of benefits of latest rail upgrade
The gauge upgrade out of Southampton port which now allows the larger containers, which are increasingly becoming the industry standard, to be carried on standard rail wagons is a clear demonstration of the economic and environmental benefits of upgrading the rail network. Rail’s share of the market out of Southampton has increased from 30-39% since the upgrade was completed in February this year reducing long distance congestion and emissions.

Carbon dioxide emissions
The A14 study needs to take into account the long-term need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions  as there is potential for rail to deliver meaningful CO2 reductions along the A14 corridor. Freight is a big CO2 emitter; domestic transport is 20% of UK total emissions and HGVs around 20% of that with limited scope to reduce its emissions; electric HGVs are not a option with current technology as the battery would weigh more than the vehicles’ payload. Therefore rail freight which produces 70% less carbon dioxide emissions 2 than the equivalent road journey, is the only practicable means of achieving the massive reductions required in carbon dioxide emissions from long distance freight on this corridor. Rail is therefore more energy-efficient; a gallon of diesel will carry a tonne of freight 246 miles by rail as opposed to 88 miles by road.  

Congestion benefits of rail freight
Road congestion is now costing around £24 billion per annum according to the Freight Transport Association based on Government figures; a single aggregates train can remove a staggering 160 HGVs from our roads 3

Rail freight creates 70% less carbon dioxide than the equivalent road journey and a gallon of diesel will carry a tonne of freight 246 miles by rail as opposed to 88 miles.

Rail freight is safer than long-distance road freight using major roads, as HGVs are over 3 times more likely to be involved in fatal accidents than cars due to a combination of size, lack of proper enforcement of drivers hours, vehicle overloading and differing foreign operating standards. Source: Road Statistics 2010 Traffic statistics table TRA0104, Accident statistics Table RAS 30017, both DfT
Rail freight is breaking out of its traditional markets into consumer business
Last year for the first time, consumer rail freight traffic was greater than coal traffic; it grew 29% in the past 5 years, despite the recession, its eighth consecutive year of growth. The industry predicts that rail freight overall will have doubled by 2030 with consumer rail freight growing 7.6% per annum during this period.

The following are our detailed responses to paragraphs 3.52- 3.56 on P26 SDG report

3.52 While there will be a significant increase in freight capacity on the F2N route over
the next few years, the primary effect of this will be to accommodate future forecast increase in rail freight demand (in large part stemming from the capacity constraints on the GEML route via London), and will have a comparatively minor impact on the overall volume for road freight on the A14 via the Haven Ports.

If SDG’s assumption is correct that implies that the rail market share cannot rise? There is no SDG analysis to support the view that the rail market share cannot rise either in terms of rail’s future capacity or its ability to further penetrate the road market.
In response to this;

  • The rail industry’s Phase 2 Ipswich - Nuneaton capacity upgrade bid for it’s CP5 funding period [reference IIP] talks of enhancing capacity on the route to 50 freight train paths per day. That is ample capacity to increase rail market share.
  • The current rail market share from Felixstowe is about 25% whereas Southampton has climbed to 39%. Both ports serve the same market over similar distances. There is no reason why, with the appropriate vision and strategy, a rail market share of 39% cannot be secured from Felixstowe.

Conclusion; rail can offer far more than the capability to keep pace with growth out of Felixstowe.
3.53 Furthermore, a market-led analysis24 suggested that only 5% of HGV traffic from the Haven Ports could potentially shift to rail, given the nature and destination of the load carried.
See above – Freight on Rail does not accept that the potential rail market share from Felixstowe is lower than the actual market share from Southampton.
3.54 Taken together a ‘best case’ that a 5% transfer was achievable (i.e. the capacity was there to accommodate it), applied to the existing 15% of HGV traffic on the Huntingdon – Cambridge section of the A14 to / from the Haven Ports traffic, would result in a reduction in HGV traffic on the A14 of less that 1%. This is not to say that such an option would not be attractive in wider terms (it would reduce traffic by a larger proportion on the eastern section of the A14, and result in reduced congestion etc.) or that is could play a part in an overall package of measures to address the A14, but that its likely direct impact on congestion in the A14 core study area would be comparatively marginal – equivalent to less than a year’s worth of HGV growth. See above.
3.55 It is more difficult to gauge the potential impact on rail-freight capacity upgrades on the potential for north-south movement currently on the A14 to transfer to rail, although it is likely that the combination of origin, destination and load type will limit the potential market that could potentially transfer.
The rail market from both Southampton and Felixstowe to London is limited currently but rail begins to compete when distances are extended to the West Midlands and beyond. Rail has a key role to play in the long distance freight traffic. There will be a minority of cases where loads on the A14 are travelling to areas which are not well served by rail terminals. The proposals for new terminal developments around the country will close that gap over time.
3.56 While there is therefore some potential for modal shift of freight from road to rail, our judgment is that any such impact will be comparatively small in the context of the increase in overall freight demand that will underpin future growth in road freight on the A14.
This is an outmoded view. The progress made by the rail freight industry in the past 18 years coupled with the development of the Strategic Rail Freight Network over the last 5 years have transformed rail’s potential.


1. Network Rail, Freight on Rail, FTA, RFG, RFOA
2. DfT Logistics Perspective Dec 2008 P8 section 10
3. Network Rail Value of Freight July 2010


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