Posted 2nd December 2014 | 5 Comments

GB Railfreight calls for 'intelligent electrification'

THE managing director of a railfreight operator has told MPs that more electrification schemes are needed, to encourage freight operators to invest in electric locomotives.

John Smith, who runs Eurotunnel subsidiary GB Railfreight, advised the Commons transport select committee that although parts of the 'electric spine' between Southampton and Nuneaton will help the sector, more needs to be done.

He mentioned Birmingham-Nuneaton as one of the logical next steps, which deserved priority in transport planning.

Mr Smith has also urged that capacity be specifically reserved for freight as part of an integrated transport strategy with a long-term vision, rather than piecemeal investments.

He has previously called for network upgrades in the Immingham area, which he described as 'the King's Cross of railfreight' and also for electrification and doubling of the line to Felixstowe Docks.

After giving evidence to the transport committee, he added: “At the moment, the majority of electrification schemes support the passenger network. With freight, there are certain markets that suit electric haulage, such as intermodal, but there is a need to prioritise electrifying the routes that serve them.

“Prioritising the electrification of specific strategic corridors, such as Birmingham to Nuneaton, will help incentivise the industry to invest in electric locomotives. Intelligent electrification is important if the Government is to encourage the modal freight shift from road to rail.”

The Committee has been taking evidence as part of its current inquiry “Investing in the Railway”, which is scrutinising Network Rail's investment plans.

The call from Mr Smith has come hard on the heels of a DfT announcement that £16 million is to be invested on electrifying the 16km Windermere passenger branch in the Lake District.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • claydon william, Norwich, Norfolk

    At one time the current Newcastle-Reading 'Arriva XC' service ran on to Brighton via Olympia and LGW, and was packed whenever I used it.

    It was apparently withdrawn because 'not enough trains were ordered for the franchise', and FGW were concerned about the effect the service had on the Reading-Guildford-Redhill-LGW service.

    Go figure.......

  • claydon william, Norwich, Norfolk

    The Committee has been taking evidence as part of its current inquiry “Investing in the Railway”, which is scrutinising Network Rail's investment plans
    This 'committee' are incapable of analysing my mums shopping list; never mind complicated transport and infrastructure projects.

    They ought to be taken to Flag Lane in Crewe to see first hand the collection of low mileage barely used electric locomotives lying idle, and scrutinize them........

  • John MacRae-Hall, Brighton

    Dear Sirs

    On the matter of improving the exsisting Rail structure;

    Rail travel from the South East of London to anything North of London.

    A great many visitors arriving via Gatwick and the channel ports wish to go further than the centre of London i.e. The rest of England, wales and Scotland. The majority have to disembark at the London terminal, get onto a tube train or taxi to another Main line station for their onward journey.

    This may be easy carrying only a newspaper, but try doing it with a months baggage after an all night flight or journey !!

    No satisfactory route around London is the problem. I have travelled via the one time circuitous route via Clapham and Watford upon occasion. This takes forever and obviously has low priority, delays are frequent.. The train operators obviously are deterred from using it for those reasons.

    The same need was observed with the Motorway system; hence the M25.
    The volume of traffic on this inadequate route illustrates that fact that not everyone wishes to travel solely to London. This glaring deficiency appears to have escaped the attention of "The Planners".

    Address that need in common with many other Victorian dated bottlenecks and deficiencies.


    John M. MacRae-Hall

  • Tim Price, Bestwood Village

    Whilst I agree with Mr Smith's words, I feel that Sprinter and Pacer replacement should be the priority, rather than replacing relatively new diesel locomotives. I believe it is nothing short of a sin that the MML scheme doesn't include some of the busy local routes in the East Midlands which are operated by units that will be 30+ years old by the time the power is switched on.

  • Lutz, London

    What is the context to the comments; is John Smith saying that NR is ignoring his recommendations that these sections of lines be electrified in the next phase?