Radlett SRFI: planning progress

Today Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has announced he is “minded to approve” planning permission for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) on a a disused airfield at Radlett near St Albans, promoted by Helioslough, a joint venture led by Segro.

The Secretary of State revisited the Helioslough scheme after a High Court challenge quashed his original appeal decision, despite the planning inspector recommending in favour of the development.

The minister said he would defer his final decision on the appeal pending submission of a satisfactory planning obligation from the developer.

He acknowledged that the proposal represented “inappropriate development in the Green Belt”. He also recognised that the proposed development would result in significant encroachment into the countryside, contribute to urban sprawl “and cause some harm to the setting of St Albans”.

However, the minister said that there were “very special circumstances” which warranted his intention to grant planning permission for the strategic rail freight interchange.

He also said that the Government would not, after all, consider the Radlett project alongside proposals for a freight terminal at Colnbrook near Slough at a joint inquiry. This option had been canvassed as part of the exercise revisiting the original decision.

Intermodality has worked with Helioslough from the project’s inception in 2003, providing support on development of the rail masterplan and planning documentation through two applications and two Public Inquiries. It is hoped that this decision by Government will enable all the stakeholders involved to conclude the protracted planning process within the short term.

Rail freight returns to Central London

Tonight a freight train quietly slipped back into London’s Euston station, nearly a decade after the last train departed, and the culmination of 6 years’ work with some of the UK’s major supermarkets, the rail industry and iconic road haulier Eddie Stobart.

Back in 2006 Steve Mulvey, Food Logistics Manager for Marks & Spencer at the time, posed us a simple question – concerned about the ability to continue to service M&S stores in London by road against growing traffic congestion and delivery restrictions, could he get goods into the centre of London by rail instead?

We took up the challenge, working with Network Rail and several rail freight operators to assess the options for running trains with ambient and chilled product from regional distribution centres into the heart of London and other major cities.

Looking across the various major passenger stations in London, it emerged that Euston still retained a largely-disused 18,000m2 (200,000ft2) mezzanine floor, purpose-built as part of the station’s reconstruction in the 1960’s for handling freight traffic to and from the capital, accessed by ramps from the outer platforms on the station which were also purpose-built for handling road vehicles. Given the unique opportunity, Euston therefore became the focus for the project.

By 2010 the project had drawn further attention from client Eddie Stobart, its key rail freight customer Tesco, and others including Sainsburys, as Steve’s original concerns about deliveries in London were now becoming a wider issue. Discussions with rail freight operator Colas Rail led to the company rescuing a small fleet of high-speed freight wagons (last used for carrying cars on the Cornish sleeper services), which were at risk of being scrapped, to provide a means of delivering roll cages into stations across the rail network.

In 2010 the Institute for Sustainability invited Eddie Stobart to join a pan-European consortium seeking to address urban “last-mile” logistics in a number of major cities in North West Europe, including London and Paris. Having secured funding in 2012 from the European Commission’s INTERREG programme, the LaMiLo (Last Mile Logistics) consortium set to work developing pilot projects, including developing a rail service into Euston.

Today’s pilot run into Euston has involved a project team led by Eddie Stobart, working with Colas Rail, Network Rail, Sainsburys and the London Borough of Camden. Colas Rail returned the freight wagons to service, adding securing straps for roll cages, obtained an electric locomotive and constructed a small cross-docking platform at its Rugby depot to allow roll cages to be transferred from truck to train.

Eddie Stobart collected a batch of roll cages with store deliveries from Sainsbury’s distribution centre in the West Midlands, delivering these to the Colas Rail depot at Rugby for loading onto the train. The train then left Rugby for its run into Euston, where the roll cages were loaded into another Eddie Stobart local delivery vehicle, which made a number of overnight runs to various Sainsbury’s stores across London.

The trial run has been a complete success, reflecting the hard work and support by all the parties involved. Network Rail staff from the Freight team and Station management at Euston have pulled out all the stops with Colas Rail to make the train operations work smoothly, in liaison with Camden Council within which Euston is located. Alongside reactivated storage facilities on the station, such services would remove long-distance trucks from London in favour of smaller low-impact delivery vehicles more appropriate for local deliveries to stores and homes.

We were delighted that Steve Mulvey, now retired from M&S, was with us tonight to see his original idea come to fruition.

Eddie Stobart: driving on gas

Stobart Group and BOC have been selected by the Government to receive funding to stimulate the market for more environmentally-friendly dual-fuel trucks.

Stobart Group’s transport and distribution division Eddie Stobart has been testing a small fleet of Volvo dual-fuel vehicles with selected clients, where Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) replaces up to 90% of the diesel fuel used to drive the engine. The award-winning programme uses standard Volvo engines, mated with a specialist dual-fuel management system and in the event that the system runs out of LNG, the engine switches automatically to normal diesel mode.

Despite the environmental benefits that this new technology offers, Eddie Stobart’s ability to increase the vehicle fleet requires considerable investment, not only in the vehicles themselves, but also in the specialist LNG refueling facilities, of which only a small number exist in the UK at present. This significantly limits the range offered by dual-fuel vehicles and therefore the potential carbon saving benefits.

The funding provided by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) will be matched by an investment from Eddie Stobart. This will enable its fleet of Volvo dual-fuel tractor units to be increased and allow BOC, the UK’s largest provider of compressed and liquefied gas, to install an LNG refueling station at one of Eddie Stobart’s regional hubs – with access available to other dual-fuel vehicle operators.

The trial aims to determine the ability of the vehicles to achieve up to 90% substitution of diesel by LNG, reduce carbon emissions by up to 25%, and avoid the potential loss of gas vented from conventional systems during refueling. The robust testing of the vehicle and refueling technologies in the field, as an integrated part of a larger vehicle fleet, will enable further refinement of the technology and provide significant opportunities to help drive sustainability in the logistics sector.

Intermodality supported Stobart Group with the successful TSB grant application and will now be managing the 3-year project on behalf of Stobart and BOC.

Intermodality scoops industry award

Intermodality is proud to have won the Support Service Provider of the Year award at last night’s Rail Freight Group event in Oxford. The judges commented:

“Our winner is a leading light in the demystification of rail freight – with an impressive portfolio of projects over the last year including getting freight on HS1, W10 gauge from Southampton to the WCML, Stobart’s UK – Spain intermodal service, new Strategic Freight Interchanges planned near St Albans and Doncaster , and a proposed rail connected Food Hub at Spalding.”

Intermodality was recommended for the award by a number of our clients, who noted:

Stobart Group:

“Intermodality has unfailingly given us robust advice and inspired guidance, high level technical and operational expertise and skills – and also demonstrated exceptional value for money. Their constant enthusiasm – and an unflinchingly half full glass – means that we are always alert to new opportunities in the market, new funds on the horizon and new partnership avenues. As a leading provider in the UK of multimodal logistics, we understand the importance of having the best advice and support on hand at all times. Intermodality always feel part of the team rather than outsiders looking in. That loyalty and closeness to our business means that they are respected by us all and their 100% reliability record means they are completely trusted too.”

Helios Properties:

“We have worked with Intermodality for over 10 years on some of the UK ‘s largest rail-related commercial property projects. During this period we have consistently enjoyed professional advice of the highest standard with a true insider’s grasp of the rail freight industry. Intermodality give us a commercial perspective to the delivery of rail freight projects, demystify what might appear complex technical problems, actively introduce us to clients and rail industry partners and in doing so bring forward fuller integration of the railway into our logistics developments. In our opinion no other rail related consultancy in the UK provides the property industry with this quality of service. “

South East England Development Agency & The Institute for Sustainability:

“Intermodality has been providing expert advice in the rail and logistics field for SEEDA from 2006 to the end of 2010. They were instrumental in informing SEEDA’s regional economic policies relating to the important link between freight, logistics and its sustainable operation in a heavily congested South East England region. They assisted with a number of crucial freight projects, not least unlocking the delivery of the rail gauge enhancement from Southampton Port to the Midlands . In SEEDA, we were always able to trust Intermodality’s professional integrity, pragmatic approach to finding viable solutions and excellent contacts to key operators in the industry. Intermodality is now participating in a number of EU funded projects which have transferred to the Institute for Sustainability, which Nick Gallop from Intermodality has joined as a Technical Associate.”

Responding to the award, Managing Director Nick Gallop noted:

“We normally like to stay out of the limelight and let our client’s achievements speak for themselves. However, on this occasion we have been truly humbled and delighted by the nominations of our clients and I am delighted to accept this award in gratitude to their ongoing support, and on behalf of our team of past and present consultants, whose collective “Can Do” approach has delivered time after time over the last decade. I would also wish to give personal thanks to RFG and the judging panel for making this award to Intermodality, it is very much appreciated.”

iPort SRFI: planning consent

Helioslough has been granted planning consent for a major new ‘inland port’ facility at Rossington, near Doncaster . The new Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) will feature a central intermodal terminal and reception sidings, flanked by warehousing with dedicated rail access.

The site will link to the East Coast Main Line at Doncaster , and Junction 3 of the M18. Rail access has been designed to cater for W10 loading gauge and future 775m length trains.

Mike Hughes, chief executive office of Helios Europe, said: “The inland port development is of strategic importance to Doncaster and the wider region and will be a major catalyst for inward investment and significant economic growth. With the support of Doncaster Council we are advancing our plans to prepare for a construction start in 2012.”

The Inland Port is the largest green belt development to have been granted permission the UK , and was not called in for consideration by the Secretary of State. The development is expected to employ more than 5,500 on site and, as with other major inland terminals such as DIRFT and Hams Hall, will help further increase mode shift of long-distance freight from road to rail.

Intermodality is proud to have been involved in the project from its inception, including rail input to the overall masterplan and the subsequent planning process.

HS1 freight: first test run completed

At 01:00 this morning, a DB Schenker Class 92 freight locomotive quietly travelled up High Speed 1 (HS1) between Folkestone and Singlewell, returning at 02:15 .

This one small step represents a giant leap for cross-Channel rail freight, enabling for the first time the movement of full-size continental rail wagons and intermodal units between London and mainland Europe .

Intermodality has supported DB Schenker and logistics operator TDG as a partner in the EXCITE (European X-Channel Intermodal Transport Enhancement) project, which has been supported by the European Commission’s Marco Polo programme.

The aims of the project have been to test the capabilities of high-speed railways such as HS1 to carry freight as well as passenger traffic. Working with HS1, DB Schenker has now successfully upgraded the on-board signalling systems on the Class 92 freight locomotives to enable operation on HS1 as well as Network Rail and Eurotunnel.

Intermodality co-ordinated the initial successful Marco Polo grant application and has provided support to the project partners over the last 5 years, as well as assisting HS1 develop its own access strategy for rail freight traffic.

The EXCITE project will conclude later this year with the start of commercial rail freight services operating on HS1 at night.

Intermodality in China

Nick Gallop, Managing Director for Intermodality spoke at the Shanghai Expo conference “Towards Sustainable Cities” in July, organised by the Sino-UK Institute for Sustainability with the Thames Gateway Institute for Sustainability, EcoNetworks and the London Development Agency.

Nick presented the challenge to developing sustainable transport and logistics networks to serve major cities, using lessons learnt in Europe to help other emerging regions achieve more efficient and low-carbon solutions to deliver goods and services into major cities and conurbations.

HS1 freight: progress update

Intermodality is working alongside DB Schenker Rail (UK) and TDG on the ‘EXCITE’ project (European X-Channel Intermodal Transport Enhancement), a partnership to pilot freight services along High Speed 1 (HS1), the first main line in the UK to be built to mainlane European standards.

HS1 Ltd and DB Schenker Rail (UK) Ltd have signed a Heads of Term to cooperate in the development of modifications to DB Schenker’s Class 92 locomotives, to enable the onboard TVM signalling system to operate on HS1.

HS1 Ltd will support the EXCITE project, which has secured Marco Polo funding from the European Commission. HS1 will lead the software development to the TVM parameters. This will ensure that the modifications required to Class 92 locos are available to all owners of Class 92’s who wish to operate over the HS1 infrastructure.

HS1 and DB Schenker have also agreed outline terms for a Track Access Agreement in anticipation of the commencement of freight services on HS1 infrastructure in early 2010.

Paul Chapman, Managing Director of HS1, said that “This agreement is a major milestone as it cleared the way for freight operation on HS1 infrastructure by DB Schenker and indeed by any other interested parties able to utilise the Class 92 fleet.”

Graham Smith, Planning Director for DB Schenker, said “This initiative will allow full-size European rail freight vehicles to move between the UK and the rest of Europe . It will open up a massive market for cross Channel rail freight, delivering major environmental and economic benefits”

Services are anticipated to start in 2010, carrying larger mainland European railway wagons and intermodal units to terminals in East London.

Intermodality cited in Hansard

Today the House of Lords debated the passage of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Bill, during which reference was made by Lord Bassam, speaking on behalf of the Government, to a current Intermodality assignment related to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, now known as High Speed 1 (HS1):

“HS1 has commissioned Intermodality to undertake a specific study to help identify commercially sustainable charges for freight service on the line to help identify what access charges might be affordable for freight services on HS1. Intermodality is analysing the freight market, particular segments within it and international comparators for pricing. We and HS1 expect the report to be completed by May. It will then feed into the subsequent consultation on access charges later this year. We recognise the importance of this issue. For that reason, we strongly support that study…”

SIRFT Sheffield: railhead goes live

Today saw developers Helioslough unveil SIRFT, the new rail-linked distribution complex built on part of the former Tinsley Marshalling Yard near Sheffield . Intermodality was on site to assist with the festivities.

A little over 42 years ago, the infamous Dr Beeching opened the state-of-the-art marshalling yard at Tinsley, which featured an early form of computer control, able to process several thousand wagons a day.

Sadly, the new yard came too late to halt the decline of rail freight during the next 30 years. By the time Helioslough and rail operator EWS commenced discussions about SIRFT, Tinsley Yard had become largely derelict.

SIRFT now offers an opportunity to reverse this decline, with two modern rail-linked warehouses now developed on part of the former yard, offering some 870,000 square feet (80,825 square metres) of distribution space.

Launching the new development, EWS locomotive 66196 broke the banner to mark the departure of the first freight train from the site.