A surge in rail freight traffic has led to calls to bring disused rail tracks back into operation.
A 12-month study by Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional and Social Research says rail freight use rose 12% during 1997-98 and that closed railway routes may soon have to be reopened to cope with rising demand.
Welcoming the report, EWS, the UK’s largest freight train operator, said its findings were long overdue.
`There is a need for more rail heads at strategic points across the country which are integrated with roads,’ said EWS. `This report provides good practical advice to local authorities wanting to bring rail freight back into their area.’
The 1963 Beeching Report led to the closure of around a third of the UK’s rail network, much of which remains undeveloped. The Sheffield Hallam report, Rail freight growth and the land-use planning system, proposes that disused rail lines and terminals should be protected from redevelopment for other purposes.
It calls for an overhaul of the planning system to enable disused lines to be rebuilt quickly and proposes that construction of rail freight facilities should be included in planning permission applications for land development.
`This means their development would be entwined with the activities of commercial property developers,’ the report says.
Rail heads at disused industrial sites or mines could also be redeveloped, the report says. Integrating rail freight infrastructure into new property schemes would allow costs to be absorbed by developers.
* Eurotunnel plans to double its shuttle train freight capacity by 2003. The company is spending £250m on four freight shuttle trains and an expansion of its Channel tunnel terminals. Each shuttle has two locomotives, a clubman for the lorry drivers to travel in, and 32 wagons. UK-based Brush Traction is building the locomotives, Arbel of France is supplying wagons, with clubman cars from Italy’s Costa Ferroviaria.