Freight News, Rail

Rail group hails Transpennine breakthrough

[ November 19, 2021   //   ]

Amid the protests over the government’s cancellation and downgrading of high speed rail projects in the north of England, the Rail Freight Group (RFG) has welcomed news that the North Transpennine route is to be upgraded to allow containers to be moved by rail. 

The plans were confirmed in the Integrated Rail Plan, published on 18 November by the Department for Transport. It states that ‘gauge clearance’, allowing 9’6” high shipping containers to move on rail wagons, will be undertaken as part of the first phase of the Northern Powerhouse Rail project.

The plans will also allow for additional line capacity for freight trains, which could be completed in the first phase if a third track between Huddersfield and Marsden is delivered.

Currently, the major ports on the East Coast and West Coast of England are unable to move containers by rail. RFG said the scheme would allow new services to start, removing thousands of HGVs from the roads and significantly reducing carbon emissions.

RFG also welcomed the news that the Transpennine route and Midland Main Line are to be electrified. However, it does have concerns over some aspects of the plan, which could reduce capacity for freight or create bottlenecks where new high speed passenger trains would share existing infrastructure.

RFG’s northern representative, Mike Hogg, said: “The upgrade of this route has been one of RFG’s main campaign priorities in the last five years, and an absolute priority for our members in the region. We are delighted that Government has confirmed gauge clearance for freight and set out plans to develop much needed new capacity on Transpennine.”

RFG director general, Maggie Simpson OBE, added: “The north of England needs transformational infrastructure to allow more rail freight to operate, taking lorries off roads and helping businesses work towards decarbonisation. Although many questions are yet to be resolved, the priority works on the Transpennine are a key enabler of that growth, and we strongly welcome Government’s commitment.”