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

Intermodality presents industry award to Morrisons

Today the Freight Transport Association (FTA) hosted its annual Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme (LCRS) conference and awards event. LCRS is a voluntary industry-led approach, led by the FTA, to reduce carbon emissions from freight transport by recording and reporting reductions in CO2 emissions.

Intermodality again formed part of the the judging panel for the 2015 LCRS awards, took part in one of the workshops at the event, and has once more sponsored one of the 5 awards, for Excellence in Modal Shift, recognising the company which has made the greatest achievement in switching freight from road to rail, inland waterway or maritime transport.

Presenting the award to Steve Gate, Transport Operations Manager for Wm Morrison Supermarkets, Intermodality Managing Director Nick Gallop said:

“This award goes to a company that is making significant use of rail. The company developed the initiative, not only because of its commitment to cost-effective logistics solutions, but also to support its Corporate Responsibility strategy to lowe emissions.

The company has worked closely with its rail service providers to make this achievement – in 2012 the company moved an average of 30 lorry loads a week by rail which in 2013 increased to 50 loads per week. And progress hasn’t stopped there – in 2014 traffic further increased to 60 loads a week, with each load saving around 950km in lorry mileage.

This is an impressive initiative and I’m therefore delighted to present the Excellence in modal shift award to Morrisons.”

European Commission: report on Combined Transport

The European Commission DG-MOVE has published a major report on the Combined Transport (intermodal) sector in Europe, the result of a year-long study by a consultancy consortium featuring KombiConsult, Intermodality, Planco and Gruppo Clas.

The report’s executive summary pulls no punches in outlining the challenges and opportunities for using intermodal and multimodal freight transport in Europe, stating:

“Whilst it is unlikely that anyone would disagree with the aims and objectives of the Transport White Paper of 2011, its hope that the performance of supply chains will be optimised and become economically attractive for shippers, remains elusive…The hope would be that, by now, CT would already be addressing the issues outlined in the White Paper, with world-class services continuing to attract customers on the basis of a major (almost dominant) share of freight traffic in Europe over road haulage.

This is very much the case with the North American CT industry, which has seen a dramatic turnaround in fortunes since the 1980’s, transforming a virtually bankrupt and dysfunctional rail sector into a key player in the overland freight market, where legislation is now focussed on limiting its scope for market dominance, rather than to try and stimulate the market to make more use of it.

The opposite applies in the EU. Here, the CT industry has been around for as long as in North America, and the liberalisation of the rail sector from the 1990’s onwards was anticipated by policy-makers to achieve a similar transformation. Twenty years have passed since “open access” liberalisation appeared, and whilst the EU’s CT industry would hopefully by now have been similarly mature and as successful as in North America, it instead appears at times to remain in adolescence and, at worse, at risk of heading for obsolescence.

At present, CT has achieved a market share equivalent to 12% of total road freight, and 9% of all surface freight. To set this further in context, rail freight has a 22% share of the combined volume of road and rail freight – almost half the share achieved in North America.

This is then the fundamental challenge facing CT: most policy-makers wish to see it play a much greater role in addressing the freight-related issues of transport in the EU; many end users would like to see it become much more commercially attractive; but relatively few customers actually use it, and often without any great enthusiasm…

There is no doubt that CT should be capable of significant growth in the years ahead. The extent to which the various CT stakeholders and actors can realise this growth will be conditioned by various factors, most of which relate to current challenges, which can be grouped into the following broad categories:

  • Service providers that still fail to recognise, adopt or improve on the performance benchmarks, or continuous innovation, established by the road haulage industry. Unreliable, unpredictable, inflexible, slow and expensive services, which by their very nature introduce extra risks associated with multiple transport modes and interchanges between them, is unlikely to attract, retain and grow the customer base to any great extent in the face of a road haulage industry which remains agile, aggressive and responsive in spite of its own set of challenges;
  • Failure of rail industry liberalisation to achieve the intended full separation of track from trains, with the breakup of former state-controlled monopolies. A large part of the rail and intermodal freight industry is now controlled by DB / Schenker and SNCF / Geodis, state-funded transport conglomerates each much larger and dominant than before the liberalisation process started, and both seemingly intent on preventing any further liberalisation of the rail industry;
  • Much of the EU’s rail and inland waterway networks are not capable of handling the type of CT traffic which operators and users would like to carry on it…Securing planning consent for new CT terminals may take years due to ponderous national planning processes, compounded by local “environmental” protestors. Solutions are available but funding is constrained and lead times may be extended;
  • The lack of electronic ICT infrastructure…In such a modern ICT-driven world, it is wholly unacceptable for some CT services to still involve the manual re-keying of data between modes and operators, based on hand-delivered or faxed documentation, or for end users to find it challenging to obtain real-time information on services, rates or even the location of their load units. Road haulage is moving forward in this area, the CT sector needs to as well;
  • Commercial and public policy towards use of CT can only ever be as good as the data it relies on. This study has highlighted the very poor quality and depth of data on freight moved by CT services, which at present prevents any forensic analysis of existing activity, or the opportunities to enhance and expand that activity.”

In terms of the 1992 Directive on Combined Transport, the report notes:

“…Some parts of the CT Directive have inevitably been overtaken by wider events, outside and within the CT sector, creating a need to revise or remove parts of the text accordingly. Other parts of the CT Directive have, as will often occur with legislation applied individually in multiple Member States, either not been transposed at all, or only in part, or been subject to various interpretations which, in some cases, may actually depart from the original objectives. This creates a greater administrative burden for CT operators and users managing services across multiple Member States (and in some third countries as well), where the rules at each end may be very differently interpreted and applied.

Yet, the CT Directive still retains a relevant role to play in establishing (or reaffirming) core principles in support of CT, whether with long-established or recent-accession Member States. There is no question that the CT Directive (possibly in an updated form) should be retained as part of the wider promotion of CT within EU transport policy. The majority of stakeholders agree with the need for the CT Directive in supporting CT, as well as the need for it to adapt and improve to support CT in future.

The key lesson learnt here is the need to achieve a delicate balance between, on the one hand, imposing a rigid pan-European “one size fits all” Directive, and on the other, a profusion of different interpretations of the CT Directive which then hinder its overall objectives…harmonising the application of the key provisions of the CT Directive across MS may be material to achieving further breakthroughs in making CT a more mainstream offer.”

In conclusion, the report sets out a way forward for the CT sector:

“…This report sets out a CT sector capable of making a major contribution to commercial and public policy objectives in the coming years. The European Commission has a critical role to play in co-ordinating investment in TEN-T and other cross-border initiatives that will over time suitably enhance the CT infrastructure networks. Alongside this, the CT Directive (with scope for updating and refinement) remains an important and relevant piece of legislation for promoting CT at Member State level. Member States then have a valuable role to play in implementing and enhancing the provisions of the CT Directive and related EU / national policies in support of CT.

Yet all the above measures will count for nothing without radical and real change within the CT sector itself which, in return for continuing to receive scarce public resources (and end user goodwill) on which to build the business, needs to adopt the practices and standards of logistics service providers. The CT sector should then build on these benchmarks, as far as possible, to evolve to a point where (as in North America) support is no longer necessary.

The White Paper concludes that a transformation of the European transport system will only be possible through a combination of manifold initiatives at all levels. For this study and its appraisal of the CT sector, we concur with this conclusion.”

A copy of the report can be found here.