THE managing director of a railfreight operator has told MPs that more electrification schemes are needed, to encourage freight operators to invest in electric locomotives.
John Smith, who runs Eurotunnel subsidiary GB Railfreight, advised the Commons transport select committee that although parts of the 'electric spine' between Southampton and Nuneaton will help the sector, more needs to be done.
He mentioned Birmingham-Nuneaton as one of the logical next steps, which deserved priority in transport planning.
Mr Smith has also urged that capacity be specifically reserved for freight as part of an integrated transport strategy with a long-term vision, rather than piecemeal investments.
He has previously called for network upgrades in the Immingham area, which he described as 'the King's Cross of railfreight' and also for electrification and doubling of the line to Felixstowe Docks.
After giving evidence to the transport committee, he added: “At the moment, the majority of electrification schemes support the passenger network. With freight, there are certain markets that suit electric haulage, such as intermodal, but there is a need to prioritise electrifying the routes that serve them.
“Prioritising the electrification of specific strategic corridors, such as Birmingham to Nuneaton, will help incentivise the industry to invest in electric locomotives. Intelligent electrification is important if the Government is to encourage the modal freight shift from road to rail.”
The Committee has been taking evidence as part of its current inquiry “Investing in the Railway”, which is scrutinising Network Rail's investment plans.
The call from Mr Smith has come hard on the heels of a DfT announcement that £16 million is to be invested on electrifying the 16km Windermere passenger branch in the Lake District.