On the 19th of Feb, engineers finished a series of improvements on the lines used by freight trains between Southampton Central and Redbridge, concluding the £17 million Southampton Freight Train Lengthening project.
Freight services between Southampton, the Midlands and the North can now carry up to 20% more goods thanks to the vital track, signals and sidings enhancements. Trains were once restricted to 520 metres in length but now they can be extended up to 775 metres in length, or 14 extra containers per train.
Six 775-metre-long freight trains per day are now set to operate from the Freightliner Maritime Terminal in Redbridge, the country’s second busiest container port. The competition is a major boost for the port’s three rail freight operators DB Cargo, GB Railfreight and Freightliner.
The upgrade also brings environmental benefits. Each container transported by rail has the same capacity as one Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV). Each container added to a freight service removes the need for an HGV on local roads, reducing pollution and congestion.
Chris Heaton-Harris, Rail Minister, said: “The completion of this freight upgrade will not only lead to a greener and more cost-efficient way to transport freight from Southampton but will also significantly boost the volume of goods transported to and from the Midlands.
“Our freight industry has played an integral role in keeping this country moving through this pandemic. Our investment ensures it will continue to play a pivotal role in supporting our economic recovery.”
Mark Killick, Network Rail’s Wessex Route Director, said: “We are very pleased to finally complete this ambitious project and unlock more capacity for freight on our route. This was a complex project which required us to install longer sidings, a new track for heavier and faster moving trains, improved signalling and enhanced drainage, which will make the operation of the area more efficient.
“We are very grateful to our freight operators and passengers for their patience during the recent line closures. We are also grateful to those living close to the railway, who has witnessed a great deal of engineering work very close to them over the last two years.”
Charlene Wallace, Network Rail’s Director of Freight, National Passenger and Customer Experience, said: “Completing the Southampton Freight Train Lengthening project passes a key milestone in our plans to move more freight by rail across the country.
“We have long sought to improve the route between Southampton and Reading and can now offer our freight operators more capacity and greater flexibility for their operations at an important location on our network.”
Images: Network Rail