Thursday 3 Sep 2009


Region & Route:
Southern: Wessex
| Southern

The first stages of a complex two-year project which aims to transfer up to 50,000 container freight journeys a year from the UK’s roads to the railway have started. Network Rail, which is delivering the £71m scheme, is carrying out work at almost 50 sites between Southampton and Nuneaton to enable the larger, modern containers preferred by many global shipping firms to be transported efficiently by train across the whole of Great Britain.

Associated British Ports' (ABP) Port of Southampton is home to the UK's second largest deep-sea container terminal, DP World Southampton. The port is the key entry point for a wide range of food, electronics, petroleum, metals and aggregate products. Currently around 25% of containers which are handled at Southampton are moved by rail. To increase this it will be necessary for the railway to be able to carry the more modern 9' 6" or 'high-cube' containers, which are the most economical method for shipping goods, particularly from the Far East.

Richard O'Brien, Network Rail’s route director for Wessex, said: "It is important that rail remains an efficient and cost-effective way of transporting freight. The upgrade of the route from Southampton to Nuneaton is vital in achieving this. In addition, it will help meet the government's objectives to ease traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions by transferring freight from road to rail."

Rail is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transport. Road freight generates six times more carbon dioxide than rail freight for each tonne moved, so the greater transfer of freight from road to rail as a result of this scheme will lead to a significant reduction of carbon emissions.

Transport minister Sadiq Khan said: "The freight industry makes a valuable contribution to our economy and this work will make us better competitors in the global marketplace, while reducing road congestion and carbon emissions along the way. Rail can be a cheaper, quicker, greener and a more practical way for businesses to transport their goods across the country and beyond.

"The government is investing £350 million in rail freight infrastructure - the most significant funding for many years - and this project is a key step towards the development of a strategic freight network in this country."

The route will take freight trains from Southampton to the West Coast Main Line near Nuneaton, via Winchester, Basingstoke, Didcot, Oxford, Banbury, Leamington Spa and Warwick. Improvement works are being planned along this route to structures which are not currently large enough for the high-cube containers to pass through. These are scheduled to be carried out over the next two years.

Mr O'Brien continued: "The UK rail network was largely constructed in Victorian times, so was designed to take trains that were smaller in height and width. For trains to carry larger loads, such as high-cube containers, we need to make sure there is enough clearance around the track so the trains can pass through bridges, tunnels or station canopies safely without hitting them.

The improvement works will be planned to minimise disruption to passenger and freight rail services, as well as the communities where the works will be taking place. Network Rail will share full details about the specific elements of the programme as soon as the plans are finalised.

Lee Amor, executive director of development and infrastructure, SEEDA, said: “This investment, which has secured funding from both ourselves and the EU, will help to maintain the region’s global competitiveness and economic performance while significantly reducing its carbon footprint.”

Notes to editors

Funding for this project has been agreed from the Department for Transport (DfT) via a Transport Innovation Fund TIF(P) grant. Additional funding is being provided by South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), ABP, DP World Southampton, Advantage West Midlands (AWM), European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Network Rail Discretionary Fund. The DfT’s Transport Innovation Fund, The Future of Transport" (July 2004) supports the costs of smarter, innovative local transport packages that combine demand management measures *support innovative mechanisms which raise new funds; *support the funding of regional, inter-regional and local schemes that are beneficial to national productivity. The current freight container market is seeing a significant growth in the percentage of ‘high cube’ containers. The usage of 9’ 6” containers currently stands at over 40%. This is expected to rise to between 50% and 70% by 2019. High cube containers are too big to be carried on standard height platform wagons on much of the rail network. Therefore the only way to carry them by rail is on special low wagons. However, this reduces efficiency and capacity by up to 33%, making rail a less competitive form of transport for freight. ABOUT SEEDA: SEEDA, the South East England Development Agency, is the Government-funded agency responsible for the sustainable economic development of the South East of England – the driving force of the UK’s economy. Through supporting businesses, encouraging innovation, developing skills and engaging with public and private partners, we aim to create a successful, sustainable future for the region. SEEDA’s support helped deliver the following over the period 2005-2008: - 17,500 jobs created or safeguarded - 32,500 people helped to get work - 10,000 businesses created or attracted to region - 137,500 businesses assisted - £638m investment, 45% levered from private sector - 200ha Brownfield land remediated - 148,500 people assisted in skills development ABOUT ABP: ABP Southampton is one of the UK's busiest and most important international gateway ports. The port is: - Home to the UK’s second largest container terminal, handling more than 1.9 million container units in 2007 - The number-one vehicle-handling port in the UK - The capital of the UK's cruise industry, with more than 900,000 passengers passing through in 2008, with the average economic benefit to the local economy rated at £1 million per cruise call by an independent Southampton Cruise Tourism study. (Ref: TTC International & Roger Tym Partners) - Home to one of the busiest marine oil terminals in Europe ABP is Britain's largest and leading ports group handling a quarter of the UK's seaborne trade and employing 2,100 staff across the business. ABP owns and operates 21 ports in England, Scotland and Wales: Ayr, Barry, Barrow, Cardiff, Fleetwood, Garston, Goole, Grimsby, Hull, Immingham, Ipswich, King's Lynn, Lowestoft, Newport, Plymouth (Millbay), Port Talbot, Silloth, Southampton, Swansea, Teignmouth and Troon. ABP also owns 49% of DP World Southampton and 33% of Tilbury Container Services.

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