The Port of Tilbury has backed the controversial HS2 rail development between London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, highlighting the creation of space on the UK’s existing railway network for more freight by rail through its new track and fast inter-city passenger service.
Construction on the project, which was estimated to cost £106bn (US$140bn) by a government review earlier this year, began last month despite concerns over its value for money and environmental impact.
According to the port, the project will ultimately benefit the country’s ports and distribution centres and Britain’s growing rail freight sector, taking trucks off of the roads and helping to reduce carbon emissions.
HS2’s capacity benefits will allow ports and distribution centres to offer more rail slots to their customers on the existing network, it noted.
The Port of Tilbury, the largest port on the River Thames, anticipates the amount of materials moved by rail will increase by 900,000 tonnes per annum within the next five years as logistics companies aim for a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carole Cran, CFO of Forth Ports, explained that HS2 will give the port “head room to grow our network of low carbon delivery routes”.
She continued: “By building a new rail line, HS2 takes fast trains off the existing railway and places them on their own dedicated tracks.
“This allows local and freight trains to run at similar speeds on the existing lines, freeing up space across the network for many more passenger and freight services, so there are benefits for everyone, not just those who will travel on HS2.”
The port currently welcomes daily rail services to major retail distribution centres and customers in the Midlands, the South West, Wales and Scotland.
The trains then return with British products for distribution around London and the South East and exported by ship around the world.
Spanning 1,100 acres and incorporating the London Container Terminal and a new port complex, Tilbury 2, the port handles over 500,000 containers and trailers per year for import and export.
The Port of Tilbury has invested around £23m (US$30m) in new rail-related infrastructure over the last couple of years to help expand its capacity deliver more freight by rail.
Additional network capacity for rail freight is essential for Britain’s low carbon future as transporting goods by rail creates 76% less carbon dioxide emissions than the equivalent road journey.
Ben Rule, infrastructure management director for HS2, said: “Building HS2 is the best way to increase capacity for rail freight on Britain’s existing rail network.
“Giving the UK’s ports the ability to transport more goods using rail will take lorries off the roads, reducing carbon emissions from transport, and will help us achieve a greener future for Britain.”
HS2’s advocates expect it to take thousands of trucks off the roads every year as more freight moves by rail since each freight train could remove up to 76 trucks from the UK’s roads which currently amounts to 1.63bn fewer km a year by heavy goods vehicles.
Jackie Doyle-Price, MP for Thurrock, said: “HS2 will free up capacity on existing lines to enable the transport of more rail freight including major ports like Tilbury in my constituency.
“I fully endorse Tilbury’s push to grow its low carbon delivery model, with rail at its heart. Whether its food, medical supplies, or building materials, as we build back better, Tilbury will continue to play its critical role for the nation.”