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Railwatch 075 - April 1998

The more flexible railway

A major step forward in making rail more flexible for shipping companies is the introduction of pocket wagons by Freightliner.

The wagons allow 9ft 6in containers, a foot higher than "normal" to be carried within the British loading gauge,

The 35 wagons, built by Rautarukki, are being used for a daily Thamesport on the Isle of Grain to Scotland service. Another 40 are on order.

The wagons help to offset the limitations of the British loading gauge which has restricted properly integrated links with the Continent where much more freight goes by rail.

The RDS freight committee has launched an initiative to expand rail freight movements between Britain and Germany, our main trading partner.

RDS is hoping to persuade DBAG Cargo to consider alternatives to the Humber-Cuxhaven ferry which takes 24 hours. A better option would be to set up an Anglo-German operation to develop swap-body, container and wagon-load traffic on the routes via Aachen which should prove quicker and more user-friendly.

RDS proposes introducing services to Aachen from Doncaster/Sheffield/Wakefield, Glasgow, Liverpool/Manchester, Birmingham Bescot and Teesside.

It also wants a Cargo-Sprinter-style Wembley-Ruhr shuttle, picking up and dropping off in Brussels, Liege and Aachen.

RDS is also urging the reinstatement of train ferries - possibly from Hull or Immingham - as a way of circumventing blockages in the Channel Tunnel or France and for the carriage of goods banned from the Tunnel.

Meanwhile the mayhem continues on the roads.

Chief Inspector Michael Wharton of West Yorkshire Police who is responsible for the M62 which carries the highest percentage of lorries of any road in Europe reports: "During an average eight-hour check, we will stop between 80 and 100 vehicles. We usually find that between 30 and 40% of these have to be issued with immediate prohibition orders for mechanical defects."

Bus and coach checks result in a 30% prohibition rate for mechanical defects. Such appalling safety standards would never be allowed on the railway.

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