The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warned that reviews of the railway industry in Britain and of railway infrastructure enhancement projects must take into account the needs of freight as part of the UK’s international and domestic supply chains.
Responding to the publication of the Bowe Review into the planning of Network Rail’s Enhancements Programme, FTA commented that it is vital that Network Rail, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) as regulator, and the Department for Transport (DfT), learn the lessons as to why the current enhancement schemes, including for the Strategic Freight Network, have gone over budget and been delayed.
Chris MacRae, FTA’s Rail Freight Policy Manager, said: “Managing the delivery of what are increasingly complex network enhancement projects is a very challenging task. But it is essential that Network Rail understands what has led to the delays and cost overruns so that it can avoid repeating the same mistakes on forthcoming projects.”
At the same time, the Hendy Review of current Network Rail infrastructure enhancement projects has deferred certain freight schemes currently in development.
Chris MacRae said: “The Strategic Freight Network Fund plays an essential role in enhancing Britain’s mixed traffic railway network to meet the needs of freight so as to help improve economic competitiveness and connectivity of the British economy. Projects delivered under this fund in the previous Control Period have helped to remove some of the constraints on rail freight and Britain’s supply chains – for example gauge clearance on main and diversionary routes into and out of the major haven gateway ports which have delivered growth in rail freight with attendant economic and societal benefits.”
Looking ahead to the Shaw Review of longer-term future shape and financing of Network Rail, due to report in the spring, Chris MacRae stated: “Government has a stated objective to increase the amount of freight which goes by rail – something which FTA wholeheartedly supports. But if industry is to be able to deliver this, it is essential that the needs of freight users – which are fundamentally different to those of passenger services – are not overlooked. Rail freight routinely operates across existing Network Rail geographical route boundaries, for example Southampton to Crewe or Southampton to Coatbridge intermodal trains. The review of the shape and financing of the infrastructure provider and its roles must ensure that planning and delivering ‘cross- boundary’ services is made easier, not harder”.