Mixed freight - why so rare in the UK?

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BRX

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Whenever I'm travelling in continental Europe I notice how frequently I see freight trains that have a mixed consist.

But in the UK you hardly see it at all. With the exception of engineering trains, a freight train will almost always consist of a rake of the same type of wagon carrying the same type of cargo.

Why is this? Is it just something to do with the shorter distances involved?

Do we actually have any marshalling yards that do any marshalling on a regular basis any more (again with the exception of engineering operations)?
 
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TheEdge

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It all goes back to Mr Beeching. We focus on the closure parts of the report but not some of the more forward thinking stuff.

He proposed large central depots with either containerised (original Freightliner) or merry go round (coal fixed formation). The idea stuck in the UK so it's been single load trains ever since

There used to be the Speedlink services which were mixed but they dried up as wayside stations and industry moved small load traffic to road
 

dk1

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BR decided to pull the plug on Speedlink which in effect was the death knell for most wagonload freight traffic in the UK. To be fair it was hopelessly inefficient & losing money hand over fist. Trains such as 1 coal wagon Norwich-Lowestoft returning light engine where commonplace all across the network. Sectorisation didn't help.
 

DarloRich

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Whenever I'm travelling in continental Europe I notice how frequently I see freight trains that have a mixed consist.

But in the UK you hardly see it at all. With the exception of engineering trains, a freight train will almost always consist of a rake of the same type of wagon carrying the same type of cargo.

Why is this? Is it just something to do with the shorter distances involved?

Do we actually have any marshalling yards that do any marshalling on a regular basis any more (again with the exception of engineering operations)?

Cash! There is more money in single consist freight trains plus the stopping and starting of the pick up goods would eat up limited capacity.
 

edwin_m

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The root cause is probably that Britain is much smaller than continental Europe or North America.

A single wagonload will normally have to be "tripped" on a local freight from its siding of origin to some kind of yard where it waits to be coupled with others into a long-distance train. At the other end of the trunk journey the same happens again in reverse.

All this faffing about costs time and money, so it's cheaper just to stick the load on a truck and drive straight to destination unless the trunk haul is long enough to make the end-to-end use of rail worthwhile. But because the UK is small this won't happen very often, and even if it was economical for a few flows these wouldn't be enough to sustain the costs of providing a widespread network of yards, trunk and trip movements. A full trainload effectively just has the trunk haul without the difficult bits either end, so is much more likely to be economical assuming there is enough load wanting to do the same journey at the same time (which is only really true for bulk commodities). Some of the goods that previously moved by wagonload freight may now go in containers, with the lorry effectively performing the trip working for collection and delivery.

In North America the opposite applies - a long trunk haul by rail will be quicker and cheaper than employing a truck and driver for several days, and there are also few passenger trains to get in the way of the freight. This cost saving will justify a bit of extra spend on tripping small numbers of wagons to and from small sidings serving individual factories. This is also partly true on the Continent, where there has also been less political willingness to take the axe to things than in the UK.

In theory the Channel Tunnel should give the UK the sort of long rail journey that favours wagonload freight. This hasn't happened due to a combination of: high charges from Eurotunnel; wagons for the UK needing to be smaller than European standard; reliability difficulties with Tunnel services due to immigrants trying to board them; and the highly congested railway in SE England making it difficult to get trains to and from the tunnel.
 
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ChiefPlanner

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Europe has obviously greater distances and still (apart from France) a good number of yards to take apart and put together trains. Bearing in mind remarshalling and so on is a cost (not a benefit) , the economics of European single / part wagonload are better - but overall it continues to decline in favour of block trains and contanainers (where the container becomes the wagon and is "sorted" in a depot using a crane.

The road truck saw it off in the UK and is doing so abroad.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Germany still has hump shunting for mixed freight

It does - and I spent an enjoyable morning at Maaschen , Hamburg about 10 years ago watching the operation. Huge yard - but you could see that it was not fully used , and the manager confirmed that volumes were well down on expectations.

Significantly - there were about 40 stored old school DB electrics with no work to do - and 3 out of the 4 trains in the area were block loads of containers or bulks.
 

gordonthemoron

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is a bridge above the Goods Yard in north Munich which has a very good view of the hump. It was rather alarming to see car transporters also being hump shunted :)
 

sarahj

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is a bridge above the Goods Yard in north Munich which has a very good view of the hump. It was rather alarming to see car transporters also being hump shunted :)

I once spent a great summer swimming in the lake nearby and watching the hump shunts.:D
 

Harbornite

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Cost, that's the reason. Both Trainsrail and EWS tried to revive wagonload trains (EWS enterprise) but that didn't really work out. One of the few surviving workings are the Didcot- Mossend trains, I think.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
It does - and I spent an enjoyable morning at Maaschen , Hamburg about 10 years ago watching the operation. Huge yard - but you could see that it was not fully used , and the manager confirmed that volumes were well down on expectations.

Significantly - there were about 40 stored old school DB electrics with no work to do - and 3 out of the 4 trains in the area were block loads of containers or bulks.

Maschen is the biggest hum shunting/ marshalling yard in Europe, it looks impressive from what I've seen of it online. I don't want to go too off topic, but were the stored electrics Class 155's?
 

neilmc

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Over the last 20 years or so one of my favourite spots in Germany is Waghausel, a bird reserve south of Heidelberg. This was bordered by a railway line on which large quantities of electrically-hauled freight trains, mostly wagonload, were interspersed with local passenger traffic (often a DMU hauled by an electric loco!). You could also hear the new high-speed line to Stuttgart just a mile or two away.

Very enjoyable, but a sad reminder on many levels of what we have lost, and what we have failed to gain, in the UK.
 

Harbornite

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Over the last 20 years or so one of my favourite spots in Germany is Waghausel, a bird reserve south of Heidelberg. This was bordered by a railway line on which large quantities of electrically-hauled freight trains, mostly wagonload, were interspersed with local passenger traffic (often a DMU hauled by an electric loco!). You could also hear the new high-speed line to Stuttgart just a mile or two away.

Very enjoyable, but a sad reminder on many levels of what we have lost, and what we have failed to gain, in the UK.


Which electric classes did you see the most while you were there?
 
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Harbon 1

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Am I imagining it or did I hear/read that British Railways, after inheriting all the customers of the Big Four, was regarded as the main freight carrier in the country and therefore required by act of government to take any load, big or small?

With the creation of the motorway network it made it easier to run smaller loads and the act was lifted for the majority.

Again, I might be making it up :lol:
 

swt_passenger

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Am I imagining it or did I hear/read that British Railways, after inheriting all the customers of the Big Four, was regarded as the main freight carrier in the country and therefore required by act of government to take any load, big or small?

Yes, the railway was considered a 'common carrier' and was obliged to carry whatever you asked them to, often at historic rates that didn't cover the cost. The requirement was not abolished until the 1962 transport act.

The rail history 1923-47 wiki article has a bit about it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histo..._Britain_1923–1947#Competition_from_the_roads

There'll be many other articles if you search on "common carrier", the problems caused were not just a British issue...
 
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Harbornite

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Am I imagining it or did I hear/read that British Railways, after inheriting all the customers of the Big Four, was regarded as the main freight carrier in the country and therefore required by act of government to take any load, big or small?

With the creation of the motorway network it made it easier to run smaller loads and the act was lifted for the majority.

Again, I might be making it up :lol:

That act was older than British Railways, but yes it did exist and was ditched in 1962?
 

furnessvale

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Yes, the railway was considered a 'common carrier' and was obliged to carry whatever you asked them to, often at historic rates that didn't cover the cost. The requirement was not abolished until the 1962 transport act.

What made matters worse was the fact that the railways had to publish their rates.

This enabled road hauliers to cherry pick which jobs they knew they could undercut, leaving the dross and marginal traffic with the railway, which, of course, the railway was obliged to carry.

By 1962 the damage was well and truly done.
 

coppercapped

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That act was older than British Railways, but yes it did exist and was ditched in 1962?

Yup! It all started with the Rail and Canal Traffic Act of 1854. This obliged both the railways and canals to carry any and all goods offered to them (with some minor exceptions) at rates which were government regulated (based on the weight and value of goods carried - rather than the costs of operation) and these rates were published.

As soon as the motor lorry was developed to be effective, which happened during the First World War, the writing was on the wall for rail freight. In retrospect one can see that the common carrier obligation should have been abandoned in 1920. It was finally abolished by the 1962 Transport Act.
 

HSTEd

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The only other option would have been to apply common carrier regulations to road haulage. But that would have been politically unpalatable.

Additionally the channel tunnel has a problem in that the charges have to be high to get any kind of cost recovery, but they are so high as to make sure the tunnel isn't actually used. So the tunnel stays empty and it loses even more money.
Which is one of the reasons it should have been built using state funding and operated on a marginal cost basis, it could and should be almost full.
Additionally the CTRL should have been built to the full Chunnel sized gauge, so that lorry shuttles could run Calais-M25 in a single hop to cater to traffic from the north.
Also it would have probably have helped if that gauge had been about two feet taller, since you might have been able to extend said line into a national double stack network.

But all pie in the sky thinking now.
 
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Bald Rick

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furnessvale

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The only other option would have been to apply common carrier regulations to road haulage. But that would have been politically unpalatable.

Additionally the channel tunnel has a problem in that the charges have to be high to get any kind of cost recovery, but they are so high as to make sure the tunnel isn't actually used. So the tunnel stays empty and it loses even more money.

Tunnel use by railfreight would be much greater if rail traffic was charged the same price as the equivalent road shuttle movement.

Despite the fact that Eurotunnel have to provide expensive loading terminals, shuttle trains, loco drivers etc., compared to railfreight which simply turns up and utilises a path, Eurotunnel manage to charge railfreight about double the cost per container that they would charge a road haulier.
 

30907

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Europe has obviously greater distances and still (apart from France) a good number of yards to take apart and put together trains. Bearing in mind remarshalling and so on is a cost (not a benefit) , the economics of European single / part wagonload are better - but overall it continues to decline in favour of block trains and contanainers (where the container becomes the wagon and is "sorted" in a depot using a crane.

The road truck saw it off in the UK and is doing so abroad.

The impression I get from random travels is that surviving wagonload tends to use private sidings - at least at one end, there seem to be a fair number of timber loading points in former general goods yards. And goods shed roads are rarely used.
 

HSTEd

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That's odd, I must have dreamt the €100m net profit after interest, depreciation, tax etc..

http://www.businesswire.com/news/ho...015-Annual-Results-Increased-Eurotunnel-Group

And I must have dreamt that they went bust and effectively defaulted on a lot of their responsibilities......
Their debt and operational burdens are not what they would have been if that had not happened.

Tunnel use by railfreight would be much greater if rail traffic was charged the same price as the equivalent road shuttle movement.

Despite the fact that Eurotunnel have to provide expensive loading terminals, shuttle trains, loco drivers etc., compared to railfreight which simply turns up and utilises a path, Eurotunnel manage to charge railfreight about double the cost per container that they would charge a road haulier.

Ofcourse they do, they are hoping to ride the subsidy bandwagon.
Just like the rest of the British railfreight industry.
 
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Bald Rick

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And I must have dreamt that they went bust and effectively defaulted on a lot of their responsibilities......
Their debt and operational burdens are not what they would have been if that had not happened.

Agreed. However that was nearly a decade ago, so to say that the tunnel 'stays empty' and 'loses even more money' is not applicable now, and hasn't been for a while. Granted there's not many traditional rail freight services, partly because of the charges, but also partly because it doesn't easily fit with the market.
 
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BRX

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The channel tunnel situation does appear quite pathetic. Somehow we seem to have managed to end up with the only piece of rail infrastructure that connects the UK with the continent, providing an easier route for road hauliers than those using the rail networks with which it's entirely contiguous at either end.

Also...the "illegal immigrants" problem is often quoted as one of the reasons that railfreight capacity through the tunnel is so underused. But I don't understand why this should be more of a problem for freight trains than any of the Euroshuttle trains loaded with individual lorries (or indeed road-hauled freight entering the UK via ferries).
 

Bald Rick

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The channel tunnel situation does appear quite pathetic. Somehow we seem to have managed to end up with the only piece of rail infrastructure that connects the UK with the continent, providing an easier route for road hauliers than those using the rail networks with which it's entirely contiguous at either end.

Also...the "illegal immigrants" problem is often quoted as one of the reasons that railfreight capacity through the tunnel is so underused. But I don't understand why this should be more of a problem for freight trains than any of the Euroshuttle trains loaded with individual lorries (or indeed road-hauled freight entering the UK via ferries).

The lorries access the site and wait for the shuttles in a very secure part of the site, with both French and English immigration and customs personnel in close attendance.

Freight trains are in a rack of sidings in a field at the edge of the site. So it is more difficult to police.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Agreed. However that was nearly a decade ago, so to say that the tunnel 'stays empty' and 'loses even more money' is not applicable now, and hasn't been for a while. Granted there's not many traditional rail freight services, partly because of the charges, but also partly because it doesn't easily fit with the market.

Also due to recurring problems of a quality of service nature by the SNCF , and the seemingly inability to manage that , and provide competitive pathways forward to the rest of Europe.

Reports of 24 our delay due to "no French traincrew" have certainly happened in the past. (I recall discussions with the DB about bringing in a new trainferry from Hamburg to Hull to get around this issue ...came to nothing more than a "what if" discussion)
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
The impression I get from random travels is that surviving wagonload tends to use private sidings - at least at one end, there seem to be a fair number of timber loading points in former general goods yards. And goods shed roads are rarely used.


Wagonload traffic sees to be of a "raw material" and semi-finished material nature (steel coils etc / cement) , and some car / tanker flows.

Wagonload "consumer" goods seem to have long gone - I recall mooching around the freight yard at St Johann in Tyrol (with the local SM) as late as the mid 1980's and saw covered wagons of washing powder being discharged for a local supermarket depot and tankers of beer being deal with.(and wagons of chiopboard for Blackburn UK being loaded into VTG Cargowagons)
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
The impression I get from random travels is that surviving wagonload tends to use private sidings - at least at one end, there seem to be a fair number of timber loading points in former general goods yards. And goods shed roads are rarely used.


Wagonload traffic sees to be of a "raw material" and semi-finished material nature (steel coils etc / cement) , and some car / tanker flows.

Wagonload "consumer" goods seem to have long gone - I recall mooching around the freight yard at St Johann in Tyrol (with the local SM) as late as the mid 1980's and saw covered wagons of washing powder being discharged for a local supermarket depot and tankers of beer being deal with.(and wagons of chiopboard for Blackburn UK being loaded into VTG Cargowagons)
 
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