AGM and Autumn Group 2019 Meeting Review

This year’s RFG AGM and Autumn Meeting, held in Middlesbrough on 6 November, included a wide range of topics with local north-east issues covered in the first session and a wider view of data gathering and processing discussed in the second session.

Geoff Lippitt, Group Business Development Director, PD Ports gave an overview of the development of Teesport, explaining that the port believes in the rail option so strongly that it takes the risk to launch its own rail services and sell space to customers. He also said that having lots of facilities with rail connections could help its case to become a Freeport if that option became available after Brexit.

Network and terminal enhancements in the north-east region – both completed and those still on-going – were outlined by Network Rail’s speakers, David Young, Business Development Manager – Freight, and Kevin Newman, SRFM for LNE (Senior Route Freight Manager LNE and EM). They asked members of the audience to send them real examples of how a particular upgrade project could lead to new services or more rotations as this helps them push the case for enhancement.

Phil McKennell, Account Manager – Intermodal, DB Cargo, said the company had become a lot more efficient over the last few years, moving its intermodal services onto a new basis working with other businesses such as Maritime Transport. He commended the companies like PD Ports and Malcolm committing to running rail freight services and hopes that other ports and forwarders can be encouraged to do the same.

The second session of the meeting covered more technical issues. Mark Gibbs of Aether Ltd and Neil Grennan-Heaven of Carrickarory Consulting gave a brief summary of their work on measuring and understanding rail freight emissions.  Their work has included correcting and updating emission factors and is now moving into a mapping project for RSSB which will allow the interaction of the railways and low emission zones to be more readily identified.

Barrie Louw, Rail Project Leader, Logistics Institute at the University of Hull, explained that a lot of the information in the railways today is on spreadsheets, pdfs or in people’s heads, often using different terminology, so his team was leading a project to digitise this in a way that could be easily used by freight planners. FOCs would be involved in trials early next year, including being able to give feedback if they think the data needs updating.

Ashley Stower, Rail Business Manager, and Chris Jones, Middlesbrough Manager from Frazer-Nash Consultancy talked about how lessons learnt in other industries such as defence and energy could be used to drive improvements in rail freight. For instance, logistics modelling for the army could be translated into fleet availability simulations where the programme creates potential scenarios to help planners understand the impact of these on availability and operations.

After lunch, a group of the attendees were taken on a tour of Teesport to see the wide range of facilities and cargoes which are handled there. Thanks to PD Ports for arranging the visit and sponsoring the meeting.