Passengers and Railfreight - how to prioritise

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by yorksrob, 21 Jun 2019.

  1. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    20,254
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    I was reading recently an article in Rail 881 entitled "industry leaders lend their support to guiding mind', and I was struck by comments reported by the Rail Freight Group Director which were supportive and commented that 'The governance and incentives for carrying freight on the network are currently dominated by the transport of passengers' and goes on to talk of making 'difficult decisions' (which sets alarm bells ringing to me as a passenger).

    I tend to think of the more traditional hierachy of priority, with the Royal train at the top, followed by Inter-City, followed by stopper, followed by fast freight, followed by slow freight, but freight might be coughing up more than a two carriage local.

    Whilst I recognise the importance of railfreight as important, to take freight off the roads and get bulk flows about, I'm less keen on it being prioritised over my passenger train.

    We had the question posed a few years ago over whether the Felixtowe branch would be better used for freight, with passengers consigned to coaches. Fortunately the decision seems to have been taken for the branch to be upgraded, and both freight and passenger services to be accommodated.

    I'm interested in views on how competing needs for freight and capacity should be accommodated.
     
  2. Registered users do not see these banners - join or log in today!

    Rail Forums

     
  3. GRALISTAIR

    GRALISTAIR Established Member

    Messages:
    3,082
    Joined:
    11 Apr 2012
    Location:
    Dalton Georgia USA
    Passengers tweet - freight does not. Politically passengers have to come first
     
  4. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    20,254
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    That seems a good point to me - is it too comfortable to me and fellow passengers though (Particularly as I don't tweet anyway, in spite of being a passenger).
     
  5. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

    Messages:
    9,672
    Joined:
    14 Jul 2011
    Well a lot of railfreight flows probably don't save that much money or road mileage compared to the alternative.

    For example if Drax was not allowed to import biomass via rail from ships at the Port of Liverpool, do we seriously believe that would road haul it from Liverpool?
    It is far more likely that they would have paid for dredging and other improvements at the Port of Goole or another nearby East Coast port like Hull or Immingham.
     
  6. higthomas

    higthomas Member

    Messages:
    884
    Joined:
    27 Nov 2012
    I'd generally go with whatever frees up most road space. (If people/freight still made the journey)
    i.e. A 12 coach train arriving at Waterloo at 8am on a Monday will frees up about 1000 cars worth of space, much more than a 20 carriage freight train. Whereas an empty 2 coach train at 5am much less.

    But... The presence of that 2 car train may get someone onto the 8am train, so it's not quite that simple...
     
  7. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    19,926
    Joined:
    16 Nov 2009
    Location:
    Redcar
    It strikes me that we need both. We need to invest and prioritise passenger traffic of all types (InterCity, regional, commuter, etc) but we also need to invest far more in freight and give that priority in relevant situations.

    Felixstowe is a good example of this. It's crackers that our busiest container port is at the end of a branch line that is not double track throughout and is not electrified! And when we do try to tackle we end up doing such a half-baked job that we consider withdrawing the passenger service to save a bit of money. Even when the project finally did get underway in the end the line was still not fully doubled and is still not electrified.

    We should have more projects that include freight loops so that more freight can run without clogging up passenger arteries. We should have more electrified cross-country routes to link our major ports with distribution centres. Projects that have a major passenger leaning should do what they can to make things better for rail freight (the Transpennine Route Upgrade is a current example where this has been missed, no doubt passengers will benefit but freight?). I would even go so far as to say that Government should be providing subsidy to encourage greater use of rail freight (for bulk flows anyway).

    Whilst rail freight will never manage the penetration of the "good old days" when every station had a parcel office and a goods yard and random wagons would slowly meander from one siding to another on the other side of the country via a host of marshalling yards (that will always remain the preserve of road transport). We need to do better where bulk flows can be identified to ensure that as much of it moves by rail as possible.
     
  8. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

    Messages:
    4,575
    Joined:
    3 May 2015
    The economic power of freight capacity holds political sway too...
     
  9. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

    Messages:
    9,672
    Joined:
    14 Jul 2011
    Freight rail, done in a way that is actually optimised for economic efficiency, is extremely difficult to operate on a railway like the British one, that is full of passenger trains and is operated at very high levels of infrastructure utilisation.

    Countries with vibrant and successful freight sectors would never dream of operating trains in and out of loops, using stock that isn't even fitted with modern automatic couplers in many cases. 800m is also far too short for a freight train to be reasonably competitive.
    I'm afraid for railfrieght to make any significant headway you would almost certainly have to build a parallel freight rail system with near dedicated tracks, sized and laid out for the purpose.
    Long trains in a generous loading gauge operating at relatively low but constant speeds.
     
  10. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    20,254
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    I agree entirely with the gist.

    The TPE route is a good example. It's currently practically useless for freight due to passenger loadings. Do we need to forget about it and open somewhere else such as the Skipton Colne route. No doubt the railfreight people are frustrated with no capacity on TPE and no new alternatives either.
     
  11. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    20,254
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    A fundamental incompatability.

    But sadly, we're unlikely to have funds to build this parallel freight system (much as I may fantasise about various closed routes that would have fulfilled the role) and we still need the congestion benefits etc that railfreight brings. We will have to compromise !
     
  12. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

    Messages:
    5,646
    Joined:
    7 Oct 2017
    Fundamentally the issue is that the infrastructure has been squeezed for passenger growth in terms of 'quick wins', and many areas are at or even above capacity. Additional capacity can't be added without considerable expense, and when are the general public going to agree to money that could go towards new high speed passenger lines going towards a new freight relief line?
     
  13. hwl

    hwl Established Member

    Messages:
    3,486
    Joined:
    5 Feb 2012
    I'm not sure the person who made the comments was thinking about it necessarily as passenger vs freight but about making a better co-existance which involves thinking about both.
    Often simple things like points (turnout) speed and good signalling regulation or fitting 3 aspect banner repeaters can make big differences but comparatively little though is given to freight performance impact when infrastructure work is done.
     
  14. kevconnor

    kevconnor Member

    Messages:
    527
    Joined:
    22 Apr 2013
    Location:
    People's Republic of Mancunia
    This is possibly one of the problems with our rail system and it's current structure.
    • For whom does it exist to serve?
    • What purpose does it serve?
    • How is are the above to be measured?
    These are existential questions but rather look at the fundamental principle of what we are seeking to get out of the rail system. If this were an open market then the business person would say price decides and it would be about which ever makes the most profit. There is still some aspect of this via track access charges. The other extreme would be a social measure of what is in the greater public good, or to use more legal parlance what is in public interest.

    This is inevitably a different answer depending on the persons perspective. the FoC operators are private organisations answerable to their shareholders, as are tocs and ROSCO's. Whereas National Rail, as a DfT Arms Length Body is answerable to Secretary of State for Transport and Parliament.

    There will always be competing priorities and objectives within the industry and it is an ever evolving landscape with many stakeholders and interests.
     
  15. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    20,254
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    That's interesting. I would have thought that higher speed turnouts would benefit all.

    What's the situation with three aspect banners ? If they could help freight without impeding passenger flows, they should definitely install them.
     
  16. GRALISTAIR

    GRALISTAIR Established Member

    Messages:
    3,082
    Joined:
    11 Apr 2012
    Location:
    Dalton Georgia USA
    Agreed 100% - and that is why F2N - Felixtowe to Nuneaton (but definitely add in Birmingham New Street) should be electrified. It actually helps passengers and freight. You would achieve so much including resignal, removal of level crossings, decarbonize, and add a bit more MML electrification and add a beautiful ECML electrified diversionary route via Cambridge to Peterborough etc.
     
  17. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    19,926
    Joined:
    16 Nov 2009
    Location:
    Redcar
    Yes! So much to gain right there! But it's not particularly on the agenda (hoping for a correction!) presumably as whilst the freight benefits would be substantial the passenger benefits are less tangible. Would it allow the politicians favourite of "x,000 extra seats in the peak!"? Perhaps not so there goes their interest. From a network perspective there's lots to like from the passenger perspective but no big flashy items.
     
  18. GRALISTAIR

    GRALISTAIR Established Member

    Messages:
    3,082
    Joined:
    11 Apr 2012
    Location:
    Dalton Georgia USA
    I think thus you have answered the OP's question - politically passengers will get prioritized even though the CO2 savings will be greatest for freight.
     
  19. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    19,926
    Joined:
    16 Nov 2009
    Location:
    Redcar
    Absolutely but perhaps the "guiding mind" might be the saviour here able to take a more holistic view than that driven purely by the politics of self-loading freight?
     
  20. deltic

    deltic Established Member

    Messages:
    1,962
    Joined:
    8 Feb 2010
  21. tbtc

    tbtc Veteran Member

    Messages:
    15,278
    Joined:
    16 Dec 2008
    Location:
    Sheffield
    That sounds a sensible approach. There has to be some kind of trade off like that, rather than the two extremes of "I'm a passenger and don't want my service disrupted" or "I'm an enthusiast who enjoys randomly timed loco hauled services, in a world of identikit passenger services operating predictable clock face timetables". Whilst I'm more of a fan of passenger services, I'm happy for freight to run if it's demonstrably better to use that path for freight. Someone somewhere can do the maths and work out how many lorries a freight train would take off the roads versus how many cars would be taken off the roads if the equivalent paths were available to passenger services (and which would be better for the environment). Personally, I'm happy to clog up motorways with lorries if it's demonstrably better for the environment to use railways to soak up a thousand passengers on a long train (instead of having those people drive).

    Some may not like it on here but there's always a trade off, there's always an opportunity cost. Sometimes a passenger train will be worse for the environment than the equivalent number of people getting a bus, sometimes a passenger train will be worse for the environment than every passenger driving a car, heavy rail isn't always the answer. And maybe, if putting a thousand passengers onto a train at the cost of putting a hundred lorries on the road means that motorways will be even less attractive to motorists and encourage more of them to use the train then that's better all round.

    One other point not mentioned above is that, whilst a freight train may only be once a day, in our world of clock face timetables, any space for that path may mean losing an hourly passenger path. It's one thing on a short branchline (e.g. Felixstowe) because you can maybe miss a trip along the branch on a particular hour and that's just one service per day missing... but another on a busy long distance route... e.g. if there's a new freight path through Manchester Piccadilly at midday then does that gap get left at 10:00/ 11:00/ 13:00/ 14:00/ 15:00 etc? Same goes for a path crossing the flat junction in the Leeds throat (e.g. if you run one service a day from the Woodlesford line up the S&C then are you effectively blocking out the throat in other hours too?

    The modern passenger railway is so busy and the timetables so simple that one freight path a day may disrupt a lot more than one passenger service per day.
     
  22. Dr Hoo

    Dr Hoo Established Member

    Messages:
    1,079
    Joined:
    10 Nov 2015
    Location:
    Hope Valley
    Did you have anywhere in mind (where freight wasn't thought about)?
    In the specific case of West Drayton the entry and exit at Acton Yard is now high speed and grade separated and Reading has been massively improved with flyovers and holding capability for freight. Accepting that work around Iver is unfinished the GW Main Line seems to have a pretty good set-up now.
    Elsewhere, re-modellings at Oxford, Banbury, Nuneaton, Norton Bridge, Derby, Peterborough, Doncaster North Chord and Ipswich, together with the upgrade of the 'Joint Line' via Lincoln have done a lot to help freight 'keep up' and run fewer-but-longer trains. (There are other examples.)
     
  23. Metal_gee_man

    Metal_gee_man Member

    Messages:
    232
    Joined:
    28 Oct 2017
    As someone who hasn't travelled around developed European by rail (Germany/France/Italy/Spain etc..) I have no knowledge of rail infrastructure in those countries, and whether they do it massively better than ourselves (more 4 track sections or more freight only sections away from the passenger network)
    The only reason I ask is because how do they run their freight more efficiently do they restrict large scale movements to late night/overnight when there are no passenger services to avoid passenger conflicts etc etc

    And really where do we stand compared to the above countries on %age moved by rail vs road or how many freight depots/ports compared to a nearly (I know it has a little bit of coast) land locked Germany
     
  24. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

    Messages:
    9,672
    Joined:
    14 Jul 2011
    Freight trains obviously have different performance curves to passenger stock, and thus cause problems for timetabling.

    So what if we had a freight EMU that had huge installed power so it had the same performance curve as a suburban unit?
     
  25. Dr Hoo

    Dr Hoo Established Member

    Messages:
    1,079
    Joined:
    10 Nov 2015
    Location:
    Hope Valley
    Err, it wouldn't be much use on the great majority of freight flows that have significant mileage on non-electrified routes.
     
  26. GB

    GB Established Member

    Messages:
    5,353
    Joined:
    16 Nov 2008
    Location:
    Somewhere
    Needlessly complicated and ridiculously/prohibitively expensive. Doesn't offer as much operational flexibility to the operators and the power source would have to be huge when you consider a typical passenger train is probably 300-400 tonnes and a typical freight is 1500-2000 tonnes. Given the weight of freight, it would still take a longer time to brake and would still come with speed restrictions over certain areas.
     
  27. swills

    swills Established Member

    Messages:
    1,765
    Joined:
    15 Jan 2008

    It's not the best way to run things placing a fast freight behind a stopper, freight will out run a stopper most days !
    Even an Inter City would not be affected that much depending on stopping pattern.

    Felixstowe Line, this week when there have been no 153's chugging up and down it's been a dream ! it is the passenger service that can slow the job down quite a lot! however once the 755's are on there, will be a different story we hope
     
  28. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

    Messages:
    20,254
    Joined:
    6 Aug 2009
    Location:
    Yorks
    Fair play - I can see the benefit of some fast freight trains being prioritised (we have a lot of container trains going through my local station).

    Felixtowe is an interesting case. I'm glad they've decided to enhance the route, rather than see passenger trains as an inconvenience !
     
  29. The Planner

    The Planner Established Member

    Messages:
    9,019
    Joined:
    15 Apr 2008
    Build a clock face timetable with the frieght path in, it happens everywhere, the VHF timetable is riddled with them for example. Clock face also means different things to people, to me as a timetabler, it doesn't mean equally spaced. xx.12 xx.30 xx.48 might not be equal in time but its clock face if it repeats itself hourly.

    This, Class 4 freight is much better placed in front of a stopper. The only problem timetabling freight is stopping and starting them, keep them going and in a lot of cases they aren't that bad to deal with. There is incremental work to increase loop length and entry/exit speeds, Southampton to the West Mids for example. Banbury, Fenny Compton, Dorridge etc all increased speeds to 40mph with flashing yellows and extended if applicable.
     
  30. hwl

    hwl Established Member

    Messages:
    3,486
    Joined:
    5 Feb 2012
    Part of the problems is that freight loops points tend to have low turnout speed (and approach control if relatively recently resignalled), being for freight there tends to be very little analysis of passenger benefit. Many freight trains are now running close to loop lengths so there is a crawl in and out* of the loop with a disproportionate impact on any thing following behind compared to what it could be.

    *Crawling out at 20/25mph with a 700m container train, then getting up to speed eats a lot of time.
     
  31. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

    Messages:
    5,646
    Joined:
    7 Oct 2017
    Are you saying there is more work that needs to be done (but isn't currently planned), or work is being done (or has been done)?

    Agreed - it caused more than a 10 minute delay to me when a train I recently took, was held just before Kingsbury Branch Junction, because it had been deemed a good idea to let out a class 6 freight in front of us, and to then let it shunt back into Kingsbury. All at 5mph :rolleyes:, blocking the main line.
     

Share This Page