Bringing high speed rail to the West Midlands releases pathways on existing lines for rail freight. This is increasingly important as the latest figures reveal rail freight has grown by 10% in the last year.
Go-HS2 member Centro wants to reopen the Walsall-Stourbridge line to freight (see below). Freight brings tremendous economic and environmental benefits.
For example one freight train typically carries up to 3,500 tonnes. The average load for a lorry is around 14 tonnes, with heavy loads up to 30 tonnes.
The West Midlands has the perfect opportunity to reopen a Black Country railway line and take advantage of the UK’s booming rail freight market, says the chief executive of the region’s transport authority.
Latest figures from the Rail Freight Group reveal the volume of UK rail freight has grown 10 per cent in 2011/12. The UK’s rail freight sector currently generates £6bn of economic benefits per year.
Centro chief executive Geoff Inskip believes the West Midlands is perfectly poised to take advantage of this growth and enjoy the economic and environmental benefits.
“This is great news for our region and highlights the importance of re-opening the Walsall-Stourbridge railway line for freight,” he said.
Centro, the Black Country LEP and the West Midlands Regional Rail Forum have all highlighted the re-opening of the line as a key priority to support the regional economy and provide additional capacity for rail freight growth. The line would encourage new or existing companies to build new freight terminals along the corridor bringing jobs and investment into the Black Country whilst at the same time reducing road congestion across the area.
The Walsall – Stourbridge freight line would also form a key link in a Strategic Freight Network between the South West and the North West, East Midlands, Yorkshire and North East.
This would provide a realistic alternative to the M5 – M6 / M42 corridors and help reduce congestion on core roads through the region.
It would also provide the opportunity to divert rail freight services away from central Birmingham releasing capacity for new passenger services on routes such as the Camp Hill line in south Birmingham and the Tamworth line through Castle Bromwich.
“Manufacturing is crucial to the West Midlands and is the second largest source of employment in our region and it is therefore vital we maximise access to markets at home and abroad to allow us to trade in a cost effective and reliable manner – exactly what rail freight allows us to do. This is therefore great news and shows how important rail freight is to our regional economy” Mr Inskip said.
“The key challenge is to get in place an integrated freight strategy which provides the opportunity to get even more freight off our roads and onto our regional railways and allow for businesses to benefit from increased trade, less congestion and reduced carbon emissions.”
The Rail Freight Group also revealed eleven per cent growth in 2011/12 on UK movement of containers, the standard form of transporting goods nationally and internationally.
Freight and logistics are a major source of employment in the West Midlands, accounting for around nine per cent of jobs in the region.
Mr Inskip said the importance of freight was a key factor in regional support for high speed rail (HS2).
“HS2 will be a passenger line, but it will release significant capacity on our existing lines for an increase in passenger and freight services. For example, the West Coast Main Line presently carries more than 50% of all rail freight in the country. More capacity is required to manage the ongoing growth forecast in rail freight.”
“We are running out of capacity on our existing network so it is vital we free up space for freight services, especially in light of this increasing demand.”
He said the environmental benefits of transferring freight from road to rail were often overlooked with road congestion costing the West Midlands economy £2.2bn per year.
A typical freight train can transport up to 3,500 tonnes. A lorry carries up to 30 tonnes.
Freight trips by road account for just 6 per cent of road traffic across the West Midlands, but the cost of congestion on freight movements to our economy is a disproportionate £600m of the £2.2bn annual cost.
However, this 6 per cent of road freight traffic generates 35 per cent of road transport’s carbon emissions.
“It makes a compelling argument for more rail freight and our region has to seize this opportunity,” Mr Inskip added.