Freight News, Rail

More freight for High Speed 1 in prospect as Eurostar slumps

[ October 6, 2020   //   ]

More through freight trains could be using the Channel Tunnel and the High Speed 1 line to London, said the head of the company that run the route through Kent. Dyan Crowther, chief executive of rail infrastructure operator HS1, told an online session of the All-Party Parliamentary Rail Group  (APPRG) on 6 October that discussions were going on with potential operators to run more freight services. She added that HS1 was also looking at its freight charging regime to try and make it simpler and more affordable for operators.

Also under discussion was the penalty regime for freight operators. At the moment, they face heft fines if their services run late and delay passenger services. Crowther said: “HS1 could take the risk on but it’s really about having a reliable freight operation.”

She told the meeting: “We’re working jointly on freight plans and we’re in dialogue with potential operators.”

Crowther revealed to the meeting that Eurostar passenger rail services between London and Paris and Brussels are currently at a very low ebb following the government’s imposition of a 14-day quarantine for most travellers coming from France and Belgium. It was also planning to cut services back still further from December; the operator was planning a ‘zero trains’ programme, although in practice some services would operate according to whatever resources were available each day, she said.

However, the dramatic cuts in passenger trains could release capacity for freight on HS1, which is the only rail line in the UK able to handle Continental-gauge freight wagons. Until now, its use by freight has been hampered by lack of available paths among the frequent passenger services (which also include domestic commuter trains from London to Kent, which are continuing to operate).

At the moment, a few freight operators use HS1 to access terminals in the Barking area; Continental-gauge wagons can travel no further on the British rail network because of its restricted loading gauge. Crowther told the APPRG session that freight currently accounts for just 2% of HS1’s traffic.