UK cross-industry plans to grow international rail freight traffic
Rail freight operators and commercial stakeholders have debated the future of international rail freight. A round table discussion was hosted by DB Cargo UK at its intermodal terminal in Barking, in the east of London. The high-level meeting was held in camera to air feelings on the under-performing international rail freight sector.
The hosts kept last-week’s meeting under wraps until afterwards, but it did attract the attention of interested parties, such as other rail freight operators, infrastructure operators, consultants in the field, the British Chamber of Commerce, academic institutions, political parties and commercial businesses.
Discussed barriers and opportunities
The event was hosted by the DB Cargo’s UK CEO Andrea Rossi, although Mr Rossi is the only named attendee released by DB Cargo. “Among the attendees were senior representatives from the Department for Transport, the Department for International Trade and the Great British Railways Transition Team”, said a statement from the hosts. “They were joined by representatives from DB Cargo UK’s European sister company Transfesa, Channel Tunnel operators Eurotunnel and major names from the supermarket retail and automotive sectors.
Given that DB Cargo has been linked with supermarket retail giant Tesco’s expansion into international refrigerated transport, and the recently inaugurated contract between DB Cargo and Toyota to move cars between Britain and France, there is reasonable speculation that these companies were represented. The official statement says that participants discussed the barriers and opportunities to increase the volume of rail freight going through the Channel Tunnel. This, says DB Cargo, is particularly relevant given the huge problems currently being experienced at some of the UK’s ports.
Open and frank discussions
“Growing our international traffic and developing new European corridors are key strategic objectives for DB Cargo,” said the host and DB Cargo UK’s CEO Andrea Rossi. “There is no better time to drive forward discussions on what needs to change to achieve this. I was incredibly heartened by everyone’s willingness to engage in open and frank discussions on the future of international rail freight and the solutions it presents to many issues facing society at the present time,” he added.
Overseas (or ‘underseas’) traffic is a sector in which the carrier has invested. DB Cargo UK recently successfully bid for funding to create a new ‘Customs Approval Area’ at its intermodal terminal at Barking in London. With a 470,000 pound (560,000 euro) award from the UK Government’s Port Infrastructure Fund, work is due to begin shortly to build a new inland border control facility at the site to speed up what the company hopes will be the seamless movement of goods into and out of the country following the end of the Brexit transition period.
Filling unused capacity
The Port Infrastructure Fund investment will fund the construction of a new warehouse, where UK Border Control staff will be able to conduct inspections and where containers can be loaded and unloaded for onward travel. “Barking is already a key staging post between the UK and Europe and plays an important role in the import and export of materials, consumer goods and produce for use both home and abroad,” said Rossi.“Every week train-loads of refrigerated containers and automotive components from Spain pass through the terminal en-route to suppliers up and down the country. This latest investment will ensure Barking continues to play a significant role in the seamless transportation of goods to and from Europe,” he added.
The carrier clearly has an interest in international trade, and the carriage of goods by rail. The recently inaugurated automotive flow from a purpose-built terminal at Toton in the East Midlands has been heralded as an instant success. However, aside from the popular “Le Shuttle” for road traffic, there has always been unused capacity for goods trains in the Channel Tunnel, which has struggled to attract traffic. If there is to be any tangible outcome from DB Cargo’s initiative, it wold be the sound of a freight train horn emerging from the portals at Folkestone with Coquelles.