die belebende Bedenkung

London’s importance for railfreight

with 4 comments

Representation of railfreight flows from Southampton, the Thames ports and Felixstowe in the DfT Strategic Case for HS2 (Oct 2013)

Representation of railfreight flows from Southampton, the Thames ports and Felixstowe in the DfT ‘Strategic Case for HS2’ (Oct 2013)

A better representation of railfreight flows from the Thames ports and Felixstowe

A better representation of traffic; most Essex / Suffolk railfreight is currently routed into and out of London

Section 2.4 of October 2013’s Strategic Case for HS2 was concerned with railfreight. It noted that

  • forecasts in Network Rail’s Freight Market Study consultation document showed a possible doubling in GB railfreight tonne-km by 2043
  • main cargo flows are from south to north
  • strong port rail traffic growth was expected to continue.

Figure 2.8 of the Strategic Case showed the relative size of freight train traffic to / from Southampton, the Thames ports, and Felixstowe. However, the diagram did not show that nearly all railborne Essex / Suffolk port goods currently have to be routed via London.

London Reconnections’ exploration of London railfreight noted that Network Rail had brushed aside concerns about the lack of capacity on the West Coast Main Line, because construction of HS2 could ‘be expected to alleviate this issue’.

However, there was no explanation in the Strategic Case as to how significant goods traffic growth could be enabled by HS2. Current Department for Transport planning appears to be based on moving most West Coast intercity passenger services onto HS2, and reusing nearly all the capacity released for enhanced commuter services (not goods trains).

Written by beleben

April 12, 2014 at 8:38 am

4 Responses

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  1. By retaining Euston as a terminus for commuter services you place a far greater limit on capacity and train utilisation than releasing paths on an open 2 or 4 track route. The solution for London (and other city) commuter traffic is to make the central station (or the key station) a through station.

    Applying the Paris-style RER connectivity to London’s stations would address the stacking back as trains are queued waiting for a platform, which is released when the train in the platform can get out, blocking the route(s) to platforms for incoming trains in the process.

    A through London connection between Battersea taking some of the services in to Victoria and Bermondsey connecting with services currently using London Bridge can link up services which alternate in their London destination between Victoria and London Bridge. A very drude exercise might look at this bundle of services and calculate how long these trains stand still at the two terminii (changing direction, waiting for a path to get out etc) and see how much time can be won by looping the service through Central London.

    A route largely following the river would be less disruptive on London’s streets, and could in many places deliver a riverside boulevard to match The Victoria Embankment.

    London-wide embracing Paddington*, Euston, Marylebone, Kings Cross*, Moorgate, Liverpool Street*, Fenchurch Street, London Bridge, Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Waterloo, and Victoria, it would make a very interesting exercise to determine how many additional carriages would be made available by eliminating the termination and turn-back, and how many additional train paths opened up in the same process. Just as with the motor car it is the junctions and journeys end car parking where the congestion is generated – not between the cities.

    Dave H (@BCCletts)

    April 12, 2014 at 9:29 am

    • David – Fully agree with the spirit of your post, although the analysis should start with ALL the lines that terminate in London.

      There are approximately 33 lines (more if you include every branch) which can be split in 5 high speed lines, 16 fast commuter (i.e. very few stops within the M25) and 12 slow commuter (i.e. most stops with in the M25).

      A sensible (very long term) plan would be to connect the 16 fast commuter lines to each for – for example the WC slow lines & the London-Brighton (Victoria) fast lines, as proposed by BR in 1980.

      The 12 slow commuter lines could then be connected together to created orbital (London Overground) lines – for example the WC DC lines could be diverted at Camden to run alongside the NLL and then join the ELL – or cross-city (London Underground) lines – as was done in the 1930s

      The most comprehensive plan published is the 1946 London (Railway Committee) plan (also called the Inglis committee plan). This proposed 9 cross-London (full loading gauge) lines and 3 tube extensions (in addition to those proposed in the 1930s.


      April 12, 2014 at 9:54 am

  2. If the government built a UK freight network to connect the Thames Ports, Felixstowe and the Barking freight yard (for HS1 traffic) to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, 2 problems would be solved:
    1) Cross-London passenger traffic services could be increased to reduce congestion
    2) WCML inter-city and fast commuter services could be increased without spending £50bn


    April 12, 2014 at 10:23 am

  3. The strategic descision that has to be taken is that no freight passes through the London rail system so that the system is not blocked.
    Obviously, there is a necessity for freight to be imported into the capital and exported from it.
    However, that should be the limit of freight rail traffic in London — and so that it does not interfer with the overloaded commuter/intercity rail system, which means night working.

    Everything else, which means through working of freight trains, should be done in an avoidance cycle. In road terms this means an M25 for freight traffic so that it avoids central London. My idea of an SHSL (Southern High Speed Line) — from Reading through Heathrow on to Gatwick then Ashford and the Channel Tunnel opens up many an opportunity.

    You can see it, among others, @
    “Fast Trax 2 – The case for a southern high speed alternative (SHSL)” (24-2-10)

    Of course, it is only one solution but at least it tries to make people think “out of the Box”.

    Stephen Cryan

    April 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm

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