CUTTING THE cost of rail infrastructure improvement schemes is vital if the money invested is to achieve growth targets, according to Tony Berkeley, chairman of the Rail Freight Group.
Speaking at the ICE this month, Berkeley called for an immediate start to schemes to improve freight capacity. But he urged that 'engineering sense' be applied on the network.
Berkeley was one of 14 speakers at the Railway Civil Engineers Association seminar 'Making way for freight', set up to maximise use of available track capacity and infrastructure.
Berkeley challenged engineers to find ways to reduce the seemingly spiralling costs of infrastructure contracts, citing the West Coast Main Line (WCML) as an example of how cash is squandered.
He also stressed the need for progress on vital schemes, and demanded an end to such planning delays as have held up the Nuneaton to Felixstowe freight line upgrade for years.
English, Welsh and Scottish Railways planning director Graham Smith said rail freight was a 'success story', with 50% growth over the last seven years, but warned that continued growth was in serious danger.
Allocating sufficient paths on the revised WCML upgrade was essential, he said. Possible solutions to a cost hike that would remove 400 freight trains a day from the line would be disastrous.
In the final session on how the infrastructure should be improved, speakers described methods of enlarging existing tunnels and heard that involving local authorities in freight issues was vital.
David Jones, a director at Britpave, also explained how new slabtrack technology, and the reduced maintenance requirements of solid concrete trackbed could help freight operators by reducing maintenance possession time.