Business, Freight News, Logistics

High speed 2 ‘could cut freight capacity’

[ January 10, 2012   //   ]

The new London to Birmingham high-speed rail line, the go-ahead for which was announced today (10 January), must not be allowed to divert investment or capacity away from the freight sector, warn industry groups. There was a danger that most of the spare slots on the existing West Coast Main Line between London and Birmingam would be used for local passenger trains rather than freight, said the Freight Transport Association’s head of supply chain policy, Christopher Snelling. He pointed out that there could be political pressure for priority to be given to increasing the frequency of local passenger services on the WCML, rather than creating more freight train paths.

Snelling warned, also, that there was a further danger that, by increasing demand for passenger services to Scotland through higher speeds and hence the number of trains, the HS2 route could also eat into capacity on the WCML north of Preston, where paths for freight are already tight.

“But perhaps our most paranoid fear is that, in order to pay for HS2, the government may cut back on other rail investment over the next ten years, including Phase 2 of the Strategic Rail Freight Network.,” Snelling added. However, there was no sign that this was in fact happening.

HS2, when it opens, could also theoretically carry freight trains itself, in much the same manner as the existing high-speed route from the Channel Tunnel to London is now being used for a weekly train from Poznan carrying high-cube swapbodies. (HS2 would also presumably be built to the larger Continental loading gauge.) However, Snelling said that it is unlikely that a line from London to Birmingham would be very attractive to freight users. “While there might be possible to link HS2 to the Channel Tunnel, it would mean creating a gauge-cleared route across London, which would be very expensive.” And is was unlikely that a route between London and Birmingham alone would be very attractive to freight users.