The Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) Head of Global Policy, Alex Veitch, has outlined the need to unlock rail capacity as one of the Association’s priorities in its submission to the Williams Rail Review.
In an exclusive interview with Transport Britain, the FTA explain the changes they feel are necessary to improve the railway for freight and passengers.
Announced earlier this year by the former Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, the Williams Rail Review will recommend appropriate organisational and commercial frameworks to support the delivery of railway improvements.
Many stakeholders have already submitted their proposals and in an interview with Transport Britain, Alex Veitch spoke about the hopes that the FTA have.
In total, there are five priorities held by the Association – the first of which is to unlock rail capacity.
Here, Alex Veitch explains. This is the first part of a bigger interview. The other four will appear here at a later date, and in the Transport Britain publication.
Alex Veitch on unlocking rail capacity
There are two issues here – one is that unfortunately there are cases where some of the franchise contracts are being let to bidders and are what I refer to as double counting the available parts.
This is where a passenger bidder has won a contract, has put together its timetable, submitted a request to the regulator, only to be told there’s a freight operator on that path. It sounds daft but it does happen. Therefore, if the Williams Review does nothing else, it has to stop that. There must be a better process at the back end of this; it could be done at the bidding stage, where you know exactly which paths you’re allowed to bid for, it could be something called into the regulator at an early stage so they can test it. Or it could be something Network Rail is tasked with, but whatever happens, the double counting has to stop.
The other really important thing about capacity is: at the minute, let’s say this does happen and you’re in a position where the freight people are bidding and competing with the passenger people for capacity, it doesn’t always happen from double counting, it can happen from time to time.
But at the minute, there’s not really a transparent methodology to decide what is the best use of the capacity at that time of day on that route, so one thing we are calling for the Williams Rail Review to set up is a process by which everybody is clear about how these capacity requests will be judged.
I really want to emphasise that this has to take into account the direct financial benefits to Network Rail or to DfT, or to whoever runs the franchises, but also the wider economic and social benefits of the service. Economists call it external costs, so this is where freight performs really well because a typical train can remove 50 lorries from the roads, so it delivers lots of safety and economic benefits for UK plc that may be missing from some of the more simplistic appraisal methodologies used.