Small Load Railfreight

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by HSTEd, 2 Nov 2011.

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  1. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    The Situation

    Railfreight mostly lost the wagonload market, such as deliveries to shops and so on, to road freight in the 50s and 60s as the cost of transhipment to and from the road vehicles used for the first and last miles was higher than the cost of using a single road based movement over the distances experienced in the UK.

    Containerisation has helped somewhat but the improvements in efficiency of HGVs and the dismantling of the majority of the freight transport infrastructure on the railways has rendered a return to railfreight using these systems impractical.

    The Proposal

    However, the rise of the supermarket and hypermarket has created a situation where an increasing amount of retail trading is occuring in at a smaller and smaller collection of point sites. The majority of these sites are either adjacent to existing railway rights of way, adjacent to abandoned but still restorable railway rights of way or simply on the outskirts of towns.
    This means that in principle building spurs to the majority of these sites would not be that expensive and in the future planning permission for such large shops could be granted on condition that rail links to it are relatively easy to implement.

    Under normal circumstances a freight train is far too large to serve even an enormous supermarket/hypermarket, however various designs of "Freight Multiple Unit" have now begun to appear, for example the "CargoSprinter" that has spawned the MPVs in use by Network Rail.

    These trains are designed to handle freight of roughly 10 TEUs whether it be in the form of containers, swap bodies or even simple bogie wagons, they can operate using push-pull working at up to 75mph and have acceleration far superior to that of a conventional freight train.
    Groups of up to eight units can also be coupled into a single rake in only a few minutes, allowing them to use only one path for large parts of the journey and conserving fuel.

    I would propose that supermarkets and other similar ventures should be made to switch as much traffic between distribution centers and large stores to small "Freight Multiple Units" as is practical.
    An infrastructure of sidings, loading docks and freight spurs would be built, financed largely by the money that would be saved by averting many of the nearly 700 road fatalities each year that involve HGVs and by the money that will saved from the road maintenance budget as these heavy vehicles are taken off the road.

    The Freight Multiple units do have an achilles heel in the form of a large purchase price which could discourage the private sector from switching to them. This problem would be avoided by the creation of a public sector "Light Freight Corporation" that would purchase the trains using public funding.
    The start up costs (in the form of a low interest loan) would be recovered from any surpluses the operator obtains once the system is in full operation. Track access charges would be reformed to reflect the unique nature of "Freight Multiple Unit" traffic as currently it is hamstrung by the pricing arrangements designed for conventional freight trains.
    The operator would also be watched like a Hawk to ensure it was not competing with conventional railfreight for contracts unlike the Supermarket supply chain business but would otherwise be free to innovate and attempt to find new markets.
    In addition development would be undertaken to develop Electrodiesel Freight Multiple units similar in capability to the CargoSprinter and perhaps even single or two wagon multiple units to enable still smaller cargo loads to be efficiently transported.

    Benefits to the Public
    • HGV Traffic is significantly reduced, reducing the number of road deaths
    • Carbon Dioxide emissions are reduced significantly
    • Road maintenance bills are reduced due to lesser HGV traffic
    • Reduced road traffic due to removal of significant numbers of slow HGVs
    • The increased rail traffic would improve the business case for electrification and other capacity improvements

    Benefits to the businesses served
    • Thanks to the integrated timetabling associated with rail travel, punctuality of deliveries would be improved, reducing uncertainties in relation to "just in time" delivery planning.
    • Decreased transit time thanks to the ability for freight multiple units to run at higher speeds than HGVs, which are currently limited to 56mph by law, while using less fuel. This would prove especially useful with perishable goods.
    • Reduced staffing costs due to the replacement of five or even forty (in large rakes) drivers with two train crew (or one, if DOO was approved for the units)

    Various Problems
    • All existing Freight Multiple units are electric or diesel-hydraulic, creating the Electrodiesels required for this plan to show optimum results could prove challenging however the power outputs are quite low so it should be soluble
    • As a 25kV bus on such a train is impractical, each unit would require two pantographs up under electric power, this could cause a rake of eight units in-multiple to have up to sixteen pans, potentially causing problems for the OHLE, however the relatively low speeds should make this acceptable.
    • Constructing the infrastructure required could require stretches of street running to reach shops without large expensive viaducts, this could be troublesome with existing safety regs

    Ofcourse, this would never happen but I think its an interesting idea myself.
     
    Last edited: 2 Nov 2011
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  3. ajax103

    ajax103 Established Member

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    I like it, quite a interesting theory and one which could well be popular.
     
  4. rail-britain

    rail-britain Established Member

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    The Supermarkets have already performed such tests

    Safeway were one of the first, Morrison dropped it
    The containers by train all the way to Inverness, then by road to the north and west

    Asda then introducted such a service
    The containers by train to Aberdeen, then by road to local stores

    Tesco is the latest, and this network is to be expanded shortly (as the train is currently operating at maximum capacity)
    Sadly the containers only serve the Central Scotland area, the train could continue further north and duplicate Asda (above)

    The biggest market is daily perishable goods
    The returning containers carry waste
     
  5. 90019

    90019 Established Member

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    The Tesco ones go to Inverness.
     
  6. Nym

    Nym Established Member

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    Tesco also goes to Glasgow IIRC, but they use the long rake runs between their distro centres, and last I checked when I watched Eddie Stobart Trucks & Trailers the Stobart wagon won end to end.

    Btw.

    HGVs / LGVs are limited to 56mph (90km/h) not 62mph (100km/h)

    It's large PSVs that are limited to 62mph (100km/h)

    I do like the idea though, but if we're delivering to retailers... Let me add my two peneth to the argument.

    You wouldn't want to be unloading containers at retail outlets, the most sensible thing to do would be to have cage and pallet carrying wagons for the railway, possibly adapted out of containers.
    I'm thinking either curtainsiders with retaining bars that can be used for either cages or pallets, or perhaps somthing more specialised.

    It needs to be able to be unloaded by the stock room guys that at most have pallet trucks and big arms to unload this stuff, so a platform would be essential, doens't need to be anything fancy, wooden frame would do fine, it would also need to be near level, anything more than a 5 or 6 degree incline and you've got no chance of pulling the pallets on or off.

    If it where based on container wagons, these could possibly be loaded in the same way, as standard containers onto the racking, after being filled normally.

    For chilled goods, the use of chilled containers would be required, but again, these would need to be able to be accessed from the side, so that if they are packed in close on the wagons carrying them then they will be able to have the cages or pallets offloaded in the same was as anything is unlaoded from HGVs now.

    Night time running would also be somthing to be looked at, and another potential would be having Airports served by rail, but then the amount of goods being delivered would need to incresase as most retailers at the airport I used to work at only see one HGV per day, and are neither intelegent enough or have enough space to be able to better plan their deliveries of goods, they would need to remain daily.

    If it becomes widespread and enough companies contract out their deliveries to this FOC then I could see multidrops happening with FMUs coupled together with autocouplers and splitting to leave that store's portion of containers before continuing to the next drop, leaving some, picking others up etc. Then going through a central handling centre, or a set of distribution centres where containerised goods (in these specialised containers) are handled and transfered between units where a full length freight train could pick up from the main distribution centres.
     
    Last edited: 2 Nov 2011
  7. PaulLothian

    PaulLothian Member

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    The huge Tesco Distribution Centre in Livingston is only 800 metres from the Edinburgh - Bathgate line, and it seemed a shame to me when they doubled that stretch that they did not put in a junction to the Tesco site, depite putting in pointwork for the as-yet unbuilt car distribution site on the other side of the line at the same location.
     
  8. 90019

    90019 Established Member

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    I think it's Mossend they go to, but I'm not sure.
     
  9. Madge Wildfire

    Madge Wildfire Member

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    I think that it should be mandatory in the granting of planning permission for distribution centres/trading estates, etc. that if there is a railway nearby then the developers would have to construct a rail link into the development as part of the proposal.

    There is a very large Wilkinsons distribution centre just to the east of what remains of Llanwern steelworks, and a massive Morrisons depot has been constructed at Bridgwater, to name just two examples. To my knowledge neither of these are rail connected, and there must be many more like this.
     
  10. rail-britain

    rail-britain Established Member

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    Only a small portion of the Mossend?
    However, I was refering to merging with the Asda (not a stand alone service)
     
  11. 142094

    142094 Established Member

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    Bulk movement of heavy goods such as coal and oil is the most profitable freight type for the railway (indeed I remember someone telling me that the profit margin that BR had on coal was about 30%). There are also the distances involved - rail is very rarely cost effective on distances under 100 km or so, which is why the supermarkets only send goods by rail on long distance routes, and where road access is poor (so north of Scotland is an ideal area for Tesco to use rail).

    Having large distribution centres on the edges of towns, linked to the national railway network would be good but you'd still need to change mode at one end at least to get it to the supermarket. Perhaps the new electric vehicles coming onto the market could help with this, but needs co-operation with the supermarkets. Any government that tried to bully them into sending freight by rail probably wouldn't win - supermarkets only use rail either because it is lower cost than roads for certain flows or for the green credentials.
     
  12. MacCookie

    MacCookie Member

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    From what I understand, Tesco use Stobart to transport containers from their distribution centre near Daventry to their distribution centre in the central belt using Stobart's service between Daventry and Mossend (DBS providing traction).

    Tesco also use Stobart to transport boxes from the central Scotland distribution centre to their stores in the north of Scotland, with DRS hauling them by rail from Grangemouth (Malcolm's terminal) to Inverness (Russell's terminal).

    I think that boxes sometimes travel Daventry to central Scotland using other services - I've certainly seen mention over on scot-rail.co.uk, although I can't remember whether they were DRS or DBS services.

    Ewan
     
  13. Hydro

    Hydro Established Member

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    I would've thought an expansion of medium-large freight terminals, handling supermarket/large retailers goods in the manner of the Royal Mail terminals, would work. Train comes in, offloads into a warehouse, Shieldmuir/Warrington style, then goes onto trucks for the final leg. Supermarkets are definitely in the bulk goods movement business, and companies could buy into the train/warehouse to add their goods onto the flow.
     
  14. jopsuk

    jopsuk Veteran Member

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    I think to make this truly work the government would have to take on the Road hauliers and make it financially advantageous for rail/disadvantageous for road- most especially, start restricting long distance trucking movements.
     
  15. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    Oops, I'l correct that now.

    I was thinking the most useful concept would either be soft sided swap bodies or simple bogie vans sized for pallet loading and unloading either using man assist equipment or full blown forklifts.

    I was thinking level concrete platforms along the side of the "siding" for just this purpose, rail does have a benefit that the suspension wont settle anywhere near as much as a road vehicles would, reducing the possibly inclines on heavily laden vehicles.

    Well if we were to use bogie vans its quite possible that they would all have chilling equipment fitted (its not that expensive when you think about it) and then whichever vans were to contain chilled goods could be chilled during and after loading (before the goods could thaw obviously).

    Night time running would be useful however I was thinking very early morning deliveries so that the retailers dont have to really change the routines that have developed around road based freight movements, hopefully speeding adoption.

    and Jopsuk: Indeed they would, we have seen just how powerful the road lobby is but then you might be able to cast it as a green initiative and one that will improve the lives of road users simultaneously, which could make it even more powerful. Clarkson and the Greens on the same side for once.
     
  16. talltim

    talltim Established Member

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    I still find it strange that wagonload can still be profitable in the US. This partly due to the greater distances, which make the transhipment cost a smaller part of the overall cost. However the opening of the Chunnel should have given the same advantage to trans-European cargo, but it seems not to have.
     
  17. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

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    Freightliner , in BR days , struggled to make domestic traffic pay below 200 miles trunk haul because of the collection and delivery charges (remember it was conceived as a modern UK freight network , not what it is now - deep sea and European containers) - there were many "blue chip" customers like Scottish and Newcastle , Bass , Alcan , Post Office Parcels , and many others.

    All drifted away due to large scale concentration / distribution depots and a then uncluttered motorway / A road network.

    I would like to see more of this national trunking done by rail - but the economics are worthy of very careful study and (frankly) - 6 or so containers on an FMU isnt going to wash its face , compared to say 20+ containers on a 300 mile haul needed to break een (with very cheap terminal facilities for loading and unloading)

    There must be parts of the UK where an aggregation of traffic , - say Daventry to the West Country ought to be viable.
     
  18. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    The idea for a freight multiple units is to replace the single lorry hop with effectively one rail hop rather than transhipping the goods at all. What Im saying is that the creation of large supermarkets has created a destination that can accept ten TEUs worth of freight easily.

    Once the transshipment costs are removed (apart from the cost of going to a siding to couple to another unit) the fuel, personel and speed arguments should begin to tell.
     
  19. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    Comprehensively unrealistic. Leaving aside the substantial capital cost of building sidings and the trains, retail logistics simply does not work that way.

    JIT logistics means just that - stores have deliveries of certain goods just when they need them, as they have next to no warehousing on site. Every single day deliveries are arranged at a moment's notice. This simply would not fit with railway timetables, and short freight trains are about as efficient in terms of use of rail capacity as short passenger trains.

    There is also the small matter of either transhipping the deliveries from the central delivery point to the store, or, alternatively, having trains and road traffic mixing round the back of the store.

    Operating costs would not be cheap either. Train drivers earn a lot, lot more than lorry drivers, and fuel costs would not be as cheap as you might think. Bear in mind that a Class 170 needs more than 60 people on it to be using less fuel per person per mile (and produce lower CO2) than if every passenger was driving their own VW Golf.

    All of the above will simply add to the cost of logistics, which means higher prices for customers - ie every one of us.

    What could (and does) work is bulk delivery of inbound to the distribution centres. Pretty much anything that says 'made in China' has come in a container through one of the big ports, and increasingly these are moving by rail inbound to distribution nodes such as Daventry, Hams Hall etc. This is the big growth area for rail freight, hence the freight upgrades. There is lots of opportunity to add rail links to these distribution centres, and the large ones are built with rail links - London Gateway will be the largest RDC in the country, and will be rail served.
     
  20. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    The trains would not be travelling as individual units for large parts of the journey, instead travelling in multiple with similar capacity to a conventional freight train. In addition the timetable is full of trains that run "as required", all that it requires is a path from the nearest coupling/decoupling plant be arranged a suitable number of times a day.

    Just In Time delivery also requires certainty as to t he transit time for goods from the storage facility to the next step of the chain, this certainty is far easier to provide with timetable d rail services than roads that are at the mercy of unpredictable congestion.

    Did you even read the post before commenting? I am proposing that there would be no transhipment beyond coupling and uncoupling units that requires few if any additional personnel and time. In addition the stores that I am talking about do tend to be on the outskirts of towns or are already adjacent to existing or still intact if unused railway rights of way.

    Also Weymouth Tramway seemed to work fairly well for many years, and street running of heavy rail trains is done all the time in the US and in Europe.

    This would tend to indicate that either train crew are massively overpaid or that road hauliers are underpaid, perhaps the latter should unionise and start a campaign to obtain better working conditions?
    A freight wagon is not significantly heavier than a articulated lorry trailer, and the connecting of several to a pair of tractor units would seem to have potential for reduced fuel consumption due to reduced air resistance and rolling resistance.

    So the logistics system would consume less fuel, employ less staff and yet end up more expensive than it already was? The Capital costs can be defrayed on the grounds of saving lives (700 people are apparently killed in accidents involving HGVs each year) and reduced road repair budgets brought about by the elimination of heavy freight equipment that causes disproportionate damage to the road surface, not to mention the reduced fuel consumption and thus carbon emissions. (damage scales by the fourth power of the vehicle tare weight)

    A single 10TEU CargoSprinter will supposedly consume 15% less fuel than five individual articulated lorries (operating eight in multiple would yield fuel consumption 35% less than the lorries) and this is without considering that an electro-diesel design would be able to travel large distances on electric power and consume 20% less energy again thanks to regenerative braking, this is without considering the lesser environmental impact of electricity generation compared to small diesel engines.
     
  21. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    I've said my piece, and not going to argue. If there was a decent case for it, someone would have done it.
     
  22. ChiefPlanner

    ChiefPlanner Established Member

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    Hear , hear Baldrick.

    Regrettably , road transport us incredibly flexible.
     
  23. Bald Rick

    Bald Rick Established Member

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    Thanks mate ! I'll buy you that pint I possibly owe you.
     
  24. Hydro

    Hydro Established Member

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    So why not just run as a conventional block train akin to an Intermodal service? Customers can buy space on the train, and can buy space at the depot. Local multi drop driver or whatever takes it onwards. BR in the 60's used a similar system using British Road Services, but then they used large marshalling yards delivering to just about everywhere rather than centralised distribution depots.

    This saves on:

    Running costs tripping each portion to each destination via rail - saving paths.

    Having to buy several FMU's. One train for each service carries it all. All that's needed are wagons rather than discrete powered units.

    As I said earlier, I'd like to see more centralised freight forwarding centres that take block trains in and have lorries going out for medium-short distance hops to final destination. A widespread version of the Tesco intermodal services currently running to Scotland.

    Like it or not, modern day Speedlink isn't going to happen.
     
  25. HSTEd

    HSTEd Established Member

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    Oh well it was a thought experiment either way,

    As for expanding Tesco's freight operations, I believe that is primarily an artifact of an awful road infrastructure in northern Scotland and I have my doubts that they could be induced to expand said services to be nationwide.

    Perhaps this concept could make a comeback if fuel prices continue to rise, road congestion continues to increase and automatic train operation on the mainline becomes practical.
     
  26. GearJammer

    GearJammer On Moderation

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    I like this thread, never bloody laughed so much in all my life, keep going gents, im enjoying this!
     
  27. RichmondCommu

    RichmondCommu Established Member

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    The vast majority of imports / exports between ourselves and the rest of Europe go through Rotterdam and Hamburg avoiding the need to use the 'Chunnel'. The other problem is that the distance between Felixstowe and London is too short to make transport by rail financialy viable.

    There used to be a container handling facility at Burton upon Trent and I often wonder why that closed as there is a large distribution centre nearby.
     
  28. Badger

    Badger Member

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  29. DavidL

    DavidL Member

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    I imagine there are a lot of those, Badger. I wonder whether they have far-off future rail connection plans, or whether it is just because the land was cheap?

    Without wishing to turn this into the "Road freight facilities adjacent to, but not served by a railway"... ;)
    Co-op/Somerfield distribution centre, nr. Lea Green, St Helens
    http://maps.google.co.uk/?ll=53.425914,-2.737956

    Almost with a tinge of irony, in this case, the council(s) have been trying to encourage a super road/rail freight centre at Parkside, a few miles east (though with much opposition from local residents, and a recent withdrawal from the developer). In fairness, the proposal would be considerably better sited than the Co-op's warehouse - at the junction of the WCML and L-M, and on the M62.
     
  30. jopsuk

    jopsuk Veteran Member

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    One that I find a bit sad is the Mail/courier firms. They run very much on the hub-and-spoke principal with their systems- a large item I had via Parcel Force from the north west to Cambridge was accidentally routed to Milton Keynes, it had to go back to Coventry before it could be sent to the Cambridge delivery depot.

    It is quite common to find several courier firms next door to one another- perhaps this could be encouraged further (ideally, close to town centres or at least passenger stations) and fairly frequent "neutral" trains run between depots? Would take a lot of lorries off the roads. it would require though a top-down approach to "encourage" them.
     
  31. timstours

    timstours Member

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