Great British Railways: Intermodality supports freight market development plan

December 2022 saw the publication of Great British Railways Transition Team’s “Market Development Plan: GBR actions and activities to grow rail freight.” The report highlights several areas where Intermodality has been commissioned to assist the nascent “guiding mind” for the rail industry with the development of the rail freight sector.

The report’s title page shows the reinstated railhead at Newhaven Port, which we helped design and develop with Network Rail, Bretts and Newhaven Port & Property. Material produced by Intermodality for GBR, as noted in the report, has included an assessment of the shortfall between regions of Intermodal Rail Freight Interchanges (IRFI). These are standalone railheads designed to provide rail access in areas not otherwise served by the larger Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges (SRFI). Intermodality has spent much of the last 21 years providing support to development of SRFI at Radlett, iPort Doncaster, East Midlands Gateway, West Midlands Interchange, Oxfordshire SRFI and most recently helping secure the allocation of the Parkside East SRFI within the St Helens Local Plan. We have also helped with the design and delivery of IRFI now operating at Severnside, Knowsley and Wilton (SUEZ) and at Tinsley (MLP for Newell & Wright Group).

We have also produced a report for a combined Network Rail / GBR team on the role that the Major Stations portfolio could once again provide, within the re-emerging market for express freight and urban logistics, another area of specialism and development by Intermodality over the past two decades, from working with EWS on its original award-winning trainload services, to organising proof-of-concept services into London’s Euston station for Eddie Stobart and Sainsburys, and in turn for TNT/Fedex (the latter funded by us). We have since worked with HS1 and Eurotunnel to assess the opportunities for cross-Channel services, with GB Railfreight, rolling stock leasing companies and a major retailer prospect on domestic services, as well as with property developers and Network Rail looking to create purpose-built distribution centres and urban cross-dock facilities. Last but by no means least, we have provided Board-level support to another award-winning start-up, ICRF’s unique 125mph parcels-on-passenger train service, which launched back in 2011 and now spans multiple modes of transport and service providers, exploiting unused space on scheduled services to move time-sensitive shipments across the network – Red Star reimagined for the 21st Century.

Further support has been provided to GBR on development of site layouts for IRFI across the country in areas where provision is lacking, the GBR report citing one of Intermodality’s plans produced for an IRFI at Exeter to serve the South West region of the UK.

As Intermodality enters our 21st anniversary year, we are proud to continue our track record of supporting growth of sustainable transport (now covering both freight and passenger sectors) through public policy and commercial investment. We will be showcasing 21 years of achievements throughout the course of 2023, so keep in touch for further updates.

From iPort to Newhaven Port: triple-whammy for clients at Rail Freight Group Awards 2020

Yesterday’s prestigious “virtual” RFG Awards (of which we were a proud recipient in 2011) delivered three industry “gongs” for four of our clients, two of which involved projects which we’ve been heavily involved with.

iPort Rail, operators of the iPort Doncaster Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) which we helped plan and secure consent for developer Verdion, have taken a brand new terminal with no pre-existing customers and, in less than 2 years, grown the business to more than 6 trains per day – the fastest launch of a SRFI to date. No surprise therefore that Steve Freeman and his team at iPort Rail scooped the Business of the Year Award.

At the other end of the country, in what was otherwise a backwater for rail freight, Network Rail and Brett Aggregates secured the Rail Freight Project of the Year for the reinstatement of the derelict railhead on the quayside at Newhaven in East Sussex. For our part in helping the project from inception with Newhaven Port & Properties, through to working on the design with Network Rail and, in turn, assisting Bretts with design and contractor procurement, this was a well-deserved winner – on which you can find out more below in earlier posts.

Not to be outdone, client DC Rail and partner VTG also collected an award for Rail Freight Project of the Year for movement of recycled materials. Intermodality has provided support to DC Rail in the opening up of new railheads at Willesden and Leicester.

Our congratulations to all four of our clients, and thanks in turn to the RFG judges for selecting these projects.

Newhaven: new railhead goes live

Network Rail today reported the first train into the reactivated railhead at Newhaven, the culmination of an 9-year journey with Newhaven Port & Properties (feasibility study in 2011), Network Rail (initial design input) and finally with Brett Aggregates (final design and contractor procurement).


Suffice to say we’re delighted to have helped yet another railhead return to life, with the road network from the Sussex Coast up to West London relieved of up to 80 lorry loads in each direction, and the emissions generated by moving the material reduced by over three-quarters compared to movement by road.

Intermodality would like to congratulate the team from the Port, Network Rail, Bretts and contractors KGJ Price for making this happen, the new railhead being only a stone’s throw (sorry) from our registered office.

Photos courtesy Network Rail

West Midlands Interchange: consent granted for Strategic Rail Freight Interchange

Today saw the Development Consent Order (DCO) granted by Government for a new Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) at Four Ashes in Staffordshire. The West Midlands Interchange (WMI) will add to the small number of existing SRFI already in operation, further expanding the network of rail-served sites available to distribution companies and their customers.

West Midlands Interchange is being promoted by Four Ashes Limited – a consortium led by Kilbride Holdings, working in partnership with international property group Grosvenor Group and majority landowner Piers Monckton. The Kilbride Holdings team has developed rail-based projects for Jaguar Land Rover in Halewood and Castle Bromwich, and Honda as well as a number of infrastructure-led developments in the UK.

Intermodality’s involvement with the project dates back to 2006, building on our long working relationship with Kilbride as one of our first clients. Over the last 14 years we have helped to design the rail-related elements of the WMI project, provided input to the various rounds of community and industry consultations, as well as the draft DCO submission itself, and the subsequent Panel Hearings by the Planning Inspectorate.

Given the paucity of rail-served warehousing in Great Britain compared to mainland Europe, the announcement is another welcome step towards creating a network of sites across the country, linking SRFI with major ports, mainland Europe and other RFI. Every single SRFI built and opened to date has since delivered on its core objective – creating new rail freight services by improving rail access to occupiers and the surrounding hinterland.

With the current lockdown set to dramatically change future shopping and supply chains, developments such as WMI will be at the forefront of helping society and business adapt to the “new normal”. Rail freight is anticipated to play a much greater role going forward, as much in delivering goods from the quayside to national distribution centres, as in onward secondary distribution out to the regions, across an expanding range of intermodal, conventional and express rail freight services.

To date we have helped SRFI at Radlett, iPort and now WMI secure planning consent as the first stage towards implementation, helped with expansion of other SRFI at Mersey Multimodal Gateway and DIRFT phase II (Sainsbury’s), and are now working on a pipeline of further future SRFI prospects across the country. Since 2002 we have also helped create or reactivate RFI at Severnside, Knowsley and Wilton (SUEZ), Castle Donington (M&S), Gascoigne Wood (Harworth), Lowestoft (Network Rail), Leicester (DC Rail), Luton (Cemex), Newhaven (Brett / Newhaven Port & Properties), Sheffield (Helios) and Thorney Mill (Link Park Heathrow).

DC Rail fast-tracks into Leicester

First train into DC Rail's new railhead at Leicester Humberstone Road (photo DC Rail)

First train into DC Rail’s new railhead at Leicester Humberstone Road (photo DC Rail)

Demonstrating yet again that rail freight services don’t always require years of planning, DC Rail‘s launch of services into a reactivated Leicester City Centre railhead took a matter of weeks. In June last year we were approached by Network Rail to develop layout options for the Humberstone Road side (our 43rd railhead project for the company since 2014 ). Network Rail subsequently agreed to lease the site to rail freight operator DC Rail, who then asked if we could develop the options further, the last plan being produced as late as January this year.

Proof positive of what can be achieved with very basic facilities, industry co-ordination and a bit of help behind the scenes.

Newhaven railhead into final phase

The New Year has seen work on Newhaven’s latest rail freight reinstatement move into the Port itself, with the former quayside sidings being refurbished and extended into Brett Aggregates’ new facility.

Website Rail Record has posted an excellent article on the development which can be viewed here, but in the meantime here’s one of the images showing the new buffer stops in place. Will provide further updates when the first trains roll…

New buffer stops at Newhaven Port (photo courtesy Rail Record)
New buffer stops at Newhaven Port (photo courtesy Rail Record)




SUEZ powers ahead with rail freight

Over the last 4 years our client SUEZ has secured all the rail-based local authority waste contracts in England, including West London, Merseyside and now Manchester. Having had little prior involvement with rail freight services in Britain, the company is now responsible for over 6 train services a day, linking transfer stations with power stations, turning residual waste that would otherwise end up in landfill into heat and power. We’ve been proud to support SUEZ in securing and developing all these contracts.

The Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority (MRWA) has produced a video with SUEZ showing the process in action on the Merseyside contract. The video below includes footage of the rail terminals at Knowsley (Merseyside) and Wilton (Teesside) that we helped design, as well as the connecting rail services that we helped procure.

Double stack container trains hit the UK*

This morning saw the first ever double-stack container train to be seen in the UK, courtesy of new open-access rail freight operator Fopol Rail. The 750 metre train formed of 37 wagons can carry 74 x 40′ length containers, dramatically increasing the carrying capacity of a single train and taking a record-breaking number of lorries off the road network.

Welcoming this dramatic development for UK and European rail freight, Lila Porof, Managing Director of Fopol Rail, said:

“North America and the Indian sub-continent have already embraced the step-change in efficiency of rail freight using double-stack intermodal trains. We are therefore delighted at being first to market with launching double-stack operations in Europe, and based on our assessment of routes capable of accommodating such trains in the UK, we will be now be able to offer services on several key intermodal corridors in the coming months.”

Fopol Rail’s emerging network of W13-gauge short-line routes (subject to confirmation and minor footbridge re-engineering) is expected to include:

•  Felixstowe (to Trimley)
•  London Gateway (to Thames Haven Junction)
•  Southampton Western Docks (internal movements only)
•  Tilbury Northfleet Hope terminal (to junction with exchange sidings)
•  Boston Docks (to just outside Thorpe Culvert and almost to Sleaford)
•  Thamesport to Lower Stoke (A228 overbridge)
•  Dungeness branch (Appledore to Lydd)

Intermodality is delighted to have helped with the fabrication of this exciting new chapter in the ongoing story of rail freight.

*Spoiler alert – may contain an April Fool

HS2: all change through South Yorkshire

In 2007 Intermodality assisted client Helioslough roll out 2 new rail-linked warehouses in Sheffield at the SIRFT development, on the site of the former Tinsley marshalling yard. The buildings were subsequently let to Marks & Spencer, with ownership of the site subsequently transferring to CBRE and in turn to London Metric.

The initial route proposals by HS2 through the Sheffield area passed close to the SIRFT site, but would have enabled M&S to maintain its operations. A subsequent change in the alignment through Meadowhall, designed to avoid the Firth Rixson steelworks, introduced a major departure from HS2’s own design standards, reducing speeds from 400km/h to 190km/h, and causing the route to pass straight through the SIRFT site – which would have seen the rail-linked warehouses demolished and several hundred M&S staff made redundant.

Working with M&S and London Metric, we produced a series of alternative route options, the objective being to no only reduce the impact of HS2 on SIRFT, but also on a number of adjoining employers, including Harworth Estates (and the biggest single regeneration scheme in the area), Morrisons, Outukumpu and Sheffield Business Park. With close support from Interel and Lichfields, we assisted London Metric and Harworth to engage with local stakeholders and make the case to HS2, highlighting the scale of local impacts from construction, business disruption and relocation and employment loss, along with presenting alternative route options to minimise impacts and improve deliverability.

We are therefore pleased to note today’s recommendation by HS2 to pursue a revised alignment further to the east of Sheffield, with HS2 services able to reach the city centre direct via existing lines – a good example of positive engagement leading to positive outcomes.

Irish Rail: trials of longer trains

In 2013 Intermodality was asked by Irish Rail to carry out a review of its rail freight business which, much like British Rail’s 30 years previously, had been in decline for several years. Working closely with Irish Rail staff at all levels, we helped identify opportunities to grow the business once more. One of the key recommendations made in our 2014 report was to move towards operating longer freight trains to help improve efficiency and competitiveness.

Irish Rail set to work undertaking a series of technical studies to determine the capabilities of traction, rolling stock, track and signalling to accommodate longer trains. This has now borne fruit, with test runs of longer timber and intermodal trains, the latter increasing train length by 50% from 18 to 27 wagons, the longest ever operated on the network.

We are delighted to see Irish Rail’s freight business achieve a turnaround in traffic over the last few years, this latest development another sign of an increasingly positive, proactive approach to growing traffic and contributing to reductions in lorry traffic and emissions.

For more information on Irish Rail’s freight business, click here