ON JUNE 13 Britain’s Shadow Strategic Rail Authority announced that three groups would share grants totalling £6m for development of innovative freight and logistics services.

Blue Circle, Babcock Rail and Metalair Feldbinder have been awarded £2·9m to fund a two-year trial moving cement from Hope to Ipswich in 16 W6A gauge tankers and six bag trailers carried on 22 Mega 3 piggyback wagons (RG 4.99 p207). Exel Logistics, AMEC Rail and Isotrak will receive £2·1m to develop a freight multiple-unit based on Railtrack’s Multi-Purpose Vehicle. Finally, a grouping of Minimodal, TDG, Lynx Express, Parsec of Europe, GB Railfreight, The Engineering Link and Boalloy has been awarded £1·01m towards flat wagons and mini-containers to carry parcels between London and Scotland.

Freight tonne-km in Britain hit a 20-year peak in the year to March 31. On May 25 EWS Chief Executive Philip Mengel told the second National Rail Summit that 18million net tonne-km had been moved by rail freight operators in 1999, but a week later the Department of the Environment, Transport & the Regions confirmed the year-end figure was 18·4 million. This is the highest tonne-km figure since 1979, although the 102·8 million net tonnes loaded is well down on the 150 million tonnes hauled in 1988-89.

H On May 26 Rail Regulator Tom Winsor launched a ’fundamental review’ of Railtrack’s track access charging policy for freight operators, ’starting from first principles’. This will run in parallel with his current Periodic Review of the track access fees which Railtrack will be permitted to charge passenger train operators in 2001-05. n