Alarmed to read this in the new draft National Infrastructure Assessment by the NIC released on Friday –. https://www.nic.org.uk/publications/congestion-capacity-carbon-priorities-for-national-infrastructure/
The high costs of committed investment on the main inter-city routes, as well as of simply maintaining the existing network, limit the scope for expanding rail into new markets.’(page 81)
– despite on page it stating on page 70. The Commission’s modelling projects that, for Great Britain as a whole, road usage will grow by between 37-61 % by 2050 and rail use by 12-43%.
More alarmingly on page 81 it seriously suggests transferring railfreight to road
‘An argument for shifting freight from road to rail is often made on grounds of congestion and environmental benefits. Rail freight will always have its place, and some enhancements may be cost-effective, but the Commission believes the pilots of “platooning” truck convoys on motorways and major A roads may open the way to radical improvements in the efficiency and capacity of major freight distribution by road in the future (see Chapter 5). This would free up rail capacity for enhanced commuter and inter-city passenger services. The Commission will report further on this in the future.
Rail freight is already increasingly limited by network capacity as passenger demand increases. The issues with mixed traffic on the network are well documented – freight trains travelling at 70mph on the same track as passenger trains travelling at 125mph results in a significant capacity constraint.50 Whilst freight can travel at night in some areas, this competes with maintenance work, which also needs access to the track at night.
They seem to swallowed all the cool aid and myths about railfreight
Their misunderstanding seems to come from their selective misreading of data from the DFT https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/tsgb04-freight using a dodgy spreadsheet model – coming to precisely the opposite conclusion of the National Freight Strategy (2016). https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/552492/rail-freight-strategy.pdf which uses the same data.
This probably represents a lack of specialism and expertise in railfreight amongst the commissions limited staff.
They don’t seem to understand that
– platooning is planned, and is far safer and easier, on rail see the Rail Delivery Group Plans https://www.rssb.co.uk/rts/Documents/2017-01-27-rail-technical-strategy-capability-delivery-plan-brochure.pdf There is no comparative advantage here from HGV platooning.
-How is platooning 50 trucks on the slow land of a motorway any different than a dedicated corridor such as rail, as the slow lane then becomes impossible to overtake on or use by car traffic, except at many times the particulate matter pollution, energy cost and maintenance cost of rail http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/media/11-july-2016-serious-obstacles-to-HGV-platooning I would recommend that the commission model a shift or rail paths to platooned trucks from the WCML – to the M1 – assess its capacity and model the two BCRs.
-That railfreight has the highest benefit cost ratio of any category of transport project (over 5.6) -Source institute of mechanical engineers 2016 https://www.imeche.org/docs/default-source/1-oscar/reports-policy-statements-and-documents/uk-freight—in-for-the-long-haul.pdf?sfvrsn=2
-The ‘last mile argument’ applies equally to public transport. You would argue that we need to shift public transport to cars because it can’t reach the last mile? A combination of SFRIS and urban consolidation centres means that as much as possible of medium to long distance routes go by rail and the common problem of road haulage trucks being ½ loaded and 30% of the time empty is solved.
-The case for rail rests on mid-long distance trips – the area where there is most potential for shifting from road to rail
-As Freight on Rail demonstrates it is a common myth to assert ‘Even if rail freight were doubled, freight travelling by road would only drop by a few per cent’ On the contrary, rail freight can make significant in-roads into long-distance HGV trips (which account for the majority of tonne kilometres as well as 50% of total lorry mileage). It is these HGV trips (at the margin) which most affect the trunk road network. This is because Government figures show that nationally almost 30 per cent of lorries are driving around completely empty and overall HGVs are around 50% loaded hence the road haulage reductions are non linear – simple spreadsheet models wont show this up – national logistics models (for example in Cube) as done for example in several national transport strategy such as Indonesia and Indonesia do (both done by the worlds leading logistics modeller Len Davies) – Source DfT empty running figures & Centre for Sustainable Road Freight (CSRF) report December 2014. The correct modelling, which the commission seems unaware of is in the AECOM/Arup model commissioned by DfT in 2016 https://www.arup.com/publications/research/section/future-potential-for-modal-shift-in-the-uk-rail-freight-market This includes recommendations for 1.5 billion of rail freight investment estimated to save – in terms of carbon price alone let alone reductions in congestion and increase in speed of delivery – of over 150 million pounds. It is the carbon savings of road to rail transfer which help give it such a high BCR. It seems the commission has not modelled the negative carbon cost of rail to road transfer
– The typical freight train matches the speed of semi-fast passenger trains and thus takes a similar amount of capacity, express trains and mail trains run at 110mph whilst the latest intermodal trains can now do 90mph and new coal wagons are designed for operation at 75mph. So why base an analysis on old coal trains which are rapidly dying out. As in Edwards Watkins vision for the Great Central Railway express freight and regional metro services can travel at the same speed on the same track leading to no decrease in ‘strategic capacity’. Many old coal trains are now being repurposed as fast logistics use.
– The largest freight trains in the UK can remove up to 160 HGV journeys from our roads – Value of Freight July 2013 Network Rail
Three things the commission have got right
- Old style bulk haulage is a dying market – except for construction and demolition waste – so there is a strong case for rail freight in growth corridors
- New technologies require a rethinking of conventional modal carbon and energy assumptions – however physics will always still favour rail
- There are conflicts between rail freight and rail passenger paths – in some cases where there is a conflict passenger paths must come first. However this could result in unacceptable road congestion on key parts of the motorway network already suffering from unacceptable junction hopping. The answer is to build new rail freight paths on restored raillines, shared with regional metros running at the same speed (as per Great Central Restoration – which links naturally to SFRIs and logistics hubs such as DIRFT, Magna Park and Hams Hall) and especially high BCRS for dedicated dynamic freight loops and chords with new technologies allowing freight trains to reieneter lines at speed – as several of the above reports suggest.
We therefore recommend that the NIC study and review their position on railfreight as there is already a – justifiable- backlash brewing from the rail freight industry.
Looking at national logistics strategies and corridor growth studies around the world we fin in Malaysia, India, China, The Silk Road, Indonesia, indeed everywhere they are based around logistics modelling, increasing use of inland poets, SRFIs, Urban consolidation centres and Special Economic zones (freepoerts) are uniquely the NIC approach the correct one here? Sadly it seems more likely the NIC in this one area in an otherwise exciting and visionary report, are the ones who have made a mistake due to lack of expertise.