Friday, 12 July 2013

Port rail links vital to eliminating road traffic

In the glory days of the railways, links to sea ports were vitally important to the railway. Indeed many railways owned steamers that carried passengers to the Scottish islands, Ireland and the continent. Then there were the big liner ports of Liverpool and Southampton as well as innumerable freight terminals and shipyards. Today many harbour railways are unused, the traffic going by lorries, cars and buses instead. Weymouth tramway lies derelict and is at risk of being ripped up. Greenock Princes pier is disconnected from the railway network. Dover marine station lies derelict. But seaborne traffic is increasing. Container traffic and cruise shipping have seen massive growth in the past decade. Shouldn't rail take the majority share in the traffic generated by these massive ships?
There’s a picture in Rail magazine issue 726 of a cruise ship docked at the old Dover marine terminal. It would be a simple task to run trains to take passengers to and from this ship. Southampton has had “Cruise Saver” boat trains taking passengers to it from Scotland and the north of England (although these sadly ceased at the end of last year). Greenock princes pier could easily be re-connected to the main line (most of the trackbed is intact save for one missing bridge). Hull is a major ferry port, but there are no trains connecting to the ferries. Stena line recently moved its North Channel terminal from rail-connected Stranraer, to Cairnryan, which does not have a railway station.

Liverpool, Glasgow, and many other smaller ports have rail sidings that are unused or underused. Getting containers, ferry passengers, cruise passengers and bulk commodities back onto the rails would take a minimum amount of effort and little cost. The only thing keeping traffic on the roads is the lack of rail-mindedness in the industry, particularly the ferry industry where roll-on roll-off ferries have made cars take precedence over foot passengers.

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