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Rail facilities prepare the ground for half-mile supertrains
Rail facilities across the UK are gearing up to handle the next generation of longer trains. Exhibitors at Multimodal 2013 in Birmingham this week explained how their investments will help make rail freight more competitive with road.
Potter Logistics is expanding all three of its UK rail freight terminals, in Knowsley, Selby and Ely, to accommodate 750-metre trains. The key, said Business Development Director Stuart Taylor, will be to unload and reload wagons as fast as they are being processed now – often this needs to be done in three or four hours – even when there are more of them. Shunting is not an option, so longer head shunts are needed to guarantee rapid processing.
Taylor said: "The new London Gateway terminal and Felixstowe are preparing to handle 750-metre trains, and Southampton will have to follow suit. So it makes sense for us to upgrade our own facilities.”
Potter is acquiring farmland adjoining its Selby terminal and will extend it next year, also increasing the gauge to W10 to allow larger containers to be handled. At Ely, the task is simpler and it is only necessary to relocate some points, which Potter is hoping to coordinate with a planned Network Rail upgrade.
The key investment is at Knowsley, where major investment is scheduled over the next two years in readiness for a 30-year contract that Potter has won from SITA, the leading waste management company.
SITA is to handle 450,000 tonnes of non-recyclable mixed household waste per year, collected from the Merseyside and Halton region. This will initially go to a waste transfer station which will be built at Potter’s Knowsley facility and will be transported by rail to a new, purpose built, energy-from-waste site in Teesside. From there, SITA will supply power to the national grid.
Two trains per day will operate between Knowsley and Teesside in a contract worth more than £20 million per year to Potter. The company is again lengthening the head shunt at Knowsley, using a strip of council-owned waste land, and the branch line will be increased to W9 to allow high-cube containers to be carried. The waste contract will not require these, but Taylor said it was important to attract other business in order to remain cost-competitive. He anticipates backhaul opportunities as well as additional traffic into Teesside.
Meanwhile, Mossend Railhead at Bellshill, central Scotland will submit a planning application this August for a distribution park including a 775-metre rail siding. The opportunity came about, the company explained, because of an upgrade to the M8/A8 link road between Glasgow and Edinburgh. This is to become motorway for its entire length. The section of road adjoining Mossend will take a slightly different line, leaving the current A8 as a high-quality access road to the site via a promised bridge over the new motorway.
A spokesman for Mossend’s owner, PDS, said the facility was the furthest north in the UK that new, larger trains could reach. The requirement for slower-moving freight trains to share track with higher-speed passenger services was still a live issue, he said, but longer 750-metre trains would add significant capacity without taking additional slots.
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