Timetable recast releases freight paths for other uses
A MAJOR timetable recast undertaken by Network Rail and Britain’s rail freight operators could release 3,684 unused train paths for other services.
The announcement on March 31 followed a two-year industry-wide review which revealed that 50% of train paths reserved for freight trains were not being used.
NR credits this to the large decline in coal traffic, as well as falls in iron and steel flows, freight operators running longer and fuller trains, and productivity improvements including running fewer part-loaded trains.
In total, 4,702 redundant train paths were identified, although 1,018 of these have been safeguarded for future growth - particularly in the intermodal and construction sectors, which are growing and are predicted to continue to do so in the future.
“It is important the whole rail industry works together to make best use of existing capacity, to minimise the need for additional expensive capacity enhancement schemes,” said NR Managing Director for Freight and National Passenger Operators Paul McMahon.
“This is a real win-win, and has truly been a collaborative piece of work with the freight operators. Capacity has been freed up for the whole railway, but essential capacity is reserved for freight operators.”
Freightliner Chief Executive Russell Mears, who chairs the Rail Delivery Group freight group, added: “The freight operators and NR have worked together in an effective and pragmatic way for the wider industry good. While retaining some key paths as strategic capacity to support future freight growth, the release of other residual paths is essential in helping the Government get the best value for money from our capacityconstrained railway.”
NR says there are currently 4,967 freight paths in the Working Timetable, of which around 20% were unused in the last quarter, the lowest figure ever recorded.
Many coal paths in the North East, Scotland and South Wales have been removed, in addition to some on the West Coast Main Line. Some of these are already being used by operators.
Among freight paths now used at least in part by passenger operators are Leith-Hartlepool (Virgin Trains East Coast), Acton Yard-Slough (Great Western Railway) and North Blyth-Mossend (ScotRail).
Productivity improvements that have helped release paths include increasing train weights for steel traffic between Scunthorpe and Dollands (from 1,600 tonnes to 1,800 tonnes with a corresponding increase in length), switching from Class 66 to Class 92 traction on Dollands Moor-Wembley water trains, and a 42.2% increase in train length from Didcot to Carlisle.
GB Railfreight 66772 passes Micheldever on March 28, with the 0942 Eastleigh Yard-Tonbridge West Yard. More than 3,600 additional freight paths could be created by Network Rail.