North West Freight challenges and potential solutions

The North West is a hugely important region for rail freight. In a recent webinar, three speakers gave us an insight into the activities and challenges of the region.

Peter Walley, Strategic Rail Officer, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), discussed the authority’s Freight Routeing Study and the implications for freight growth.

He explained that the three-stage study looked at current freight activity, developed a series of forecast of rail freight demand for 2043/44 and then analysed the two to understand the impact on the network.

The results show that terminal location is a key challenge, although they are broadly in the right places. But even the most cautious forecasts show that the number of freight paths needs to double on many routes and there are capacity challenges with the desired growth in passenger traffic.

The decarbonisation agenda is a clear opportunity but requires investment in new technology by operators and a programme of electrification. He asked freight operators and others to provide TfGM with specific evidence that would help support rail infrastructure investment,

Phil Smart of Rail Future presented an alternative routeing proposal for traffic currently using the very congested Castlefield corridor route in Manchester. This included identifying a western route into Trafford Park as well as looking for a new terminal site.

He proposed an additional site at Carrington Park which would be have advantage over Trafford Park in that it would be capable of taking 700m+ trains without splitting, have direct access to gantries and be suitable for future expansion.

He showed outline maps of rail routes into the proposed site, requiring 3.5km of new line, with 2.5km through brownfield sites.  Phil explained the benefit /cost analysis, using Network Rail’s own appraisal) was 4.5 – 1.

Ed Best from Suez gave an overview of the company’s waste business with a focus on the North West and the opportunities and challenges faced there. Suez aims to take waste and give it a ‘second life’ where items are reused, recycled or recovered for their energy content.

It moves one million tonnes per year by rail in the UK, mainly from cities to energy-from-waste or energy recovery facilities. In Merseyside, it moves 440,000 tonnes p.a. to its Wilton facility by rail, offsetting 127,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Government and local authority focus on decarbonisation and sustainability provides good opportunities for Suez but it faces challenges obtaining additional paths when it occasionally requires them on a Sunday after a week of supply chain issues. It also asks for more advanced notification of Network Rail track possessions to allow better waste flow planning via alternative routes.

If you would like the presentations, contact

Click the link below to watch the video on the RFG YouTube Channel