Rail freight and water transport offer ‘Best Value’ options
Road transport's days as king could be numbered, with the immediate prospect of congestion charging in central London and the longer term aim of the Commission for Integrated Transport to drive up the cost of using Britain's highways. These policies will be encouraging for alternative means of transportation, notably rail freight and water borne services. LAWE reports on how these sectors are faring
Passenger rail services may be the millstone around any Transport Minister’s
neck, but rail freight is providing an example of a reasonably successful service
for its customers, particularly in the movement of very large tonnages of waste
from urban areas to disposal sites.
Through a series of contracts the rail company moves waste, in containerised
loads, for a range of waste companies and local authority based organisations,
including GMW, Edinburgh, and the West London WA. Edinburgh’s waste is railed
to a site at Dunbar, while GMW sends its waste to a site at Roxby Gullet at
Scunthorpe with waste from west London being transported from railheads for
landfill disposal at sites including Shanks’ Calvert facility.
A recently established transfer site in east London is used to rail commercial
and trade waste from Bow Midland Waste.
However there is a dearth of sites in south London available as potential waste
transfer sites for rail.
One avenue which could be explored is to develop a more extensive network of
rail-based waste centres lies in strategic sites which are held by Railtrack
for potential development as freight facilities.
Though there are obvious environmental benefits to be gained from shifting
waste from road to rail, with economic advantage swinging towards rail freight
where movements of 40 miles or more are involved, railway sources point out
that there is a fairly long lead time to set up a waste facility with rail access
and that long term waste contracts do not come up very often.
EWS cites an example of a client taking the longer term view, where the West
London WA agreement has been signed up for another eight years.
The cost of constructing a rail connection for a waste site, including vital
signalling, requires a long-term investment. At present, there is an additional
handicap to developing rail-side waste facilities, with priority being given
within the railway system to resignalling the main rail routes, putting pressure
on the availability of scarce equipment.
However, rail transport is playing a significant role in reducing the volume
of heavy road trips between waste collection centres and the dwindling numbers
of landfill sites across the country and in the south east in particular.
The rail freight option is being used also for a range of materials transport
which have environmentally beneficial features both in terms of curbing road
vehicle generated pollution and in wider “green” dimensions.
Rail transport has been used in the movement of containerised ash produced
by the incineration of livestock culled during the Foot & Mouth Disease
Metals scrap is being rail freighted under a deal with a leading metals recovery
group and spent ballast from Railtrack operations is railed out with the material
representing a “virtual quarry” for potential use in other applications.
Contaminated waste is also transported from brownfield and construction sites.
There will, for example, be an anticipated total of over one million tonnes
of material to be removed in the redevelopment of the Kings Cross Channel Tunnel
site in London, which is ideally placed for shipping out by rail.
On the aggregates front EWS alone moves 13 million tonnes of materials each
year for major producers, including limestone from the Mendips, peak District
and Yorkshire Dales, granite from Leicestershire, sea dredged sand and gravel
from the Thames Estuary. Aggregate is transported in either hopper or box wagons.
These are provided by customers, leasing companies and by EWS.
On the waterfront
Water-borne transport of waste also has an excellent record in the geographically
concentrated areas where it is employed.
Cory Environmental operates a fleet of seven tugs and 47 container barges on
the Thames which carry 630,000 tonnes of waste from west London and the Corporation
of London downriver to the Mucking landfill site in Essex, saving thousands
of waste lorry movements each year.
David Riddle, Chief Executive, Cory Environmental told LAWE: “There is
tremendous scope to expand the river based operation, but this potential will
not be realised unless new riverside waste treatment and disposal facilities
are consented and developed within the next few years.”
As with rail freight, water-borne transport is an option which should benefit
from the application of “Best Value” concepts.
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