A £4bn investment package to boost rail freight traffic in Britain was announced on May 3 by the Strategic Rail Authority’s Freight Director Julia Clarke. Intended to form part of the SRA’s Strategic Plan due later this year, the freight strategy is designed to deliver the 80% increase in tonne-km forecast by the government’s 10-year plan.

Around £3·4bn of public finance will be augmented by a further £600m of private investment. Most will go on network enhancements to raise capacity and improve operational reliability, and on the expansion of interchange and terminal capacity. The rest will help to support socially-desirable operations through track access and freight facilities grants.

Most trunk freight routes will be enlarged to the W12 loading gauge, allowing 9 ft 6 in high containers to be carried on wagons with a 1000mm deck height. Train lengths will be increased to 775m, with 25·5 tonne axleloads or 30 tonnes on selected ’heavy-haul’ routes. Corridors from the ports of Felixstowe and Southampton to the West Midlands will have top priority, including resignalling and grade separation of critical junctions.