RFG calls for certainty on future digital freight funding

Rail Freight Group (RFG) today welcomed the launch of Network Rail’s Digital Railway Strategy, which aims to ensure that all new trains and signalling are digital or digital-ready from 2019 onwards. It cautioned however that without certainty of future funding freight risks being left behind in this revolution, delaying delivery of benefits across the whole network.

Digital railway is a key enabler of future rail freight growth, delivering improved capacity for new services, better reliability and enhanced information for freight customers. Digital signalling should also facilitate quicker and cheaper connections to new freight interchanges and terminals, bringing new users to the rail network and enabling a growth in modern rail-linked sites.

To begin this upgrade, Network Rail has contracted with Siemens Rail Automation to develop ‘first in class’ fitment of digital signalling to freight locomotives, and is working with freight operators, ROSCOs and the supply chain to deliver the first prototypes. However, Government has not yet committed funding in Control Period 6 to enable the full roll out of the programme. Without this, freight services cannot benefit from the new signalling on East Coast Main Line, Transpennine and elsewhere. As freight locomotives operate on a network-wide basis, fleet fitment is also a key national enabler for the overall realisation of benefits of digital railway.

Maggie Simpson, RFG Executive Director, said: “Digital transformation of the railways is an exciting proposition and one that we fully embrace. Government and Network Rail have taken the first steps to ensuring freight is part of this story but must now commit to fund ongoing fleet fitment in CP6 to ensure that freight operators and their customers can take full advantage of the benefits of digital railway.”