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.

Allied markets

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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