FREIGHT STUDY: NR targets fast, high-capacity network
LONGER and faster freight trains running on a higher-capacity rail network form the cornerstone of Network Rail’s draft Freight Network Study that was released for consultation in August.
Increases in line speed on key sections of the Strategic Freight Network are considered, as is the development of a network-wide capacity for 775-metre trains. Gauge enhancement and creation of more diversionary routes to enable new intermodal freight services is also discussed in the 108-page document.
Key schemes proposed include dynamic loops from Tebay to Shap Summit, from Penrith to Shap in the Up direction, and on the Up line between Carlisle to Plumpton near Penrith. The cost of these interventions ranges from £250 million to £500m for the first two, and £375m for the latter. Remodelling of Carstairs Junction, including bi-directional signalling and rationalisation of existing junctions, is expected to be undertaken with track renewals in Control Period 6 (2019-2024), at a cost of up to £250m.
Grade separation at Denbigh Hall South Junction (near Bletchley) and additional platform capacity at Milton Keynes Central are being considered with East West Rail services in mind, while gauge clearance to W12 loading gauge between the West Coast Main Line and Grangemouth is also a possibility.
Longer-term aspirations on the West Coast Main Line - Britain’s busiest mixed-use railway - include quadruple tracking from Preston to north of the Scottish border or the creation of a new two-track railway, and quadrupling from Carlisle to Carstairs and around Winsford, Weaver Junction and Wigan and Preston.
On the East Coast Main Line, dynamic loops at Grantshouse (Berwick-upon-Tweed) are needed to cope with expected freight demand in CP6, and electrification of the Edinburgh Suburban Line will provide a W12 loading gauge electrified route between the West and East Coast Main Lines. This could cost between £150m and £300m.
Other Scottish improvements suggested include installation of an Up freight loop at Camperdown (north of Dundee) to increase capacity, and creation of a looping strategy for freight between Dundee and Aberdeen.
Further doubling of the Felixstowe branch line, to meet growing demand for rail services from the port, is predicted to cost between £75m and £150m, with a loop at Haughley Junction, signalling upgrades at Bury St Edmunds and track doubling between Ely and Soham also required to maximise the benefits. Major works at Ely and Peterborough are also considered. W12 gauge clearance from Derby to Stoke has already been committed to in CP6.
Major capacity enhancements at Leicester are already to be delievered in CP6, with two
additional tracks between Wigston North and Syston East Junctions and grade separation at Wigston North Junction.
Despite being relegated in importance, electrification of the diversionary route from Southampton Ports and Basingstoke via Andover is included in the study, with costs estimated at £300m to £500m.
Grade separation at Didcot East Junction and either four-tracking between Didcot and Oxford or grade separation and capacity improvements in Oxford could cost £475m or £200m respectively.
In southern England, W12 clearance on key routes to and from the Channel Tunnel is desired, as is addressing incompatibilities between track circuits at Redhill and Class 92 locomotives.
The consultation is available at http://www.networkrail.co.uk/longterm-planning-process/FreightNetwork-Study/
Freightliner 66567 heads south through Lancasters Gate (near Stowmartket) on September 29 2015. It is accelerating away from Haughley Junction, which takes trains away from the Great Eastern Main Line and westwards towards Ely. Network Rail is proposing to install a loop here to improve capacity for freight as part of a consultation it has issued.