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COMMENT


At present, on both the West and East Coast main lines, Network Rail and the Office of Rail Regulation are facing ever-greater dilemmas in terms of whether they allow additional passenger expresses by the franchisee, or new open-access passenger services to unserved destinations, or improved-frequency local and cross-country passenger services, or more freight.


Too often, the risk is that freight, with its lower profile and fewer champions, could become the loser. Containers don’t have votes, but we cannot allow freight growth to be squeezed off the network. This is why HS2 is essential. And, to those who say that high- speed broadband would be better than High Speed 2, try sending two thousand tonnes of Tesco groceries by broadband…


As for High Speed 2 itself, this is being planned as a passenger-only railway. The appeal of this is obvious – easier to schedule, easier to design in terms of curvature and gradients, and a long nightly shut-down for routine maintenance.


But are we missing a trick here? At the National Rail Conference in Liverpool on 5 July, Tim Robinson, freight director at Network Rail,


The High Speed 2 company has ruled this out to date, but a recent trial by Europorte Channel showed what will happen if this position is maintained. A short trial train of continental


asked if High Speed 2 couldn’t accommodate premium freight such as mail and parcels. So, could this be squeezed in, perhaps during the late evening when the demand for passenger travel falls away?


And, although Robinson didn’t specifically mention this, but bearing in mind that HS2 will bring European gauge clearances to the Midlands and North, could a limited amount of piggyback freight (lorry trailers on rail wagons) be accommodated before the nightly maintenance shut-down?


wagons carrying Ewals Cargo Care road semi-trailers (see photos) was operated from Antwerp to Barking via High Speed 1. But the goods were actually destined for Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port, and had to complete its journey on the M25, M1 and M6 motorways, because the wagons and their lorry trailers won’t fit into the West Coast loading gauge.


Surely HS2 offers an unmissable opportunity to plug conurbations such as Birmingham, Merseyside, Manchester and Leeds into the European-gauge freight network, even if only for a few late-evening piggyback premium freights? So, next time someone on the radio or in your newspaper caricatures High Speed 2 as being solely for expense- account businesspeople whizzing about the UK, think instead of a 2,000-tonne container train that will, post- 2026, have room to travel up the West Coast Main Line.


And maybe a TGV operating on HS2, carrying parcels and mail to Scotland.


And, maybe, just maybe, a train of wagons carrying lorry


trailers, moving effortlessly from mainland Europe to Manchester or Leeds.


TELL US WHAT YOU THINK opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com


rail technology magazine Aug/Sep 12 | 27


©HS2 Ltd


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