DB Cargo UK and Maritime Class 66 locos

UK: The length and capacity of freight trains is to be increased as a result of research which has found that existing wagon couplers can safely accommodate higher trailing loads without upgrading or a detailed engineering assessment.

The research by the Rail Safety & Standards Board means the 34·5 tonne coupler rating can be raised to 40 tonnes, and some 56 tonne couplers increased to a new 63 tonne rating.

RSSB said this covers more than 12 000 wagons or over half the fleet, and the industry is now working to identify routes suitable for longer trains. The organisation estimates that operating a 375 km return trip with 23 instead of 19 wagons could save 2·1 tonnes of CO2 and produce annual financial savings of £364 000.

The work is the first in a series of rail freight research projects funded by the Department for Transport, focusing on safe operation, raising average speeds, longer trains and reducing emissions.

‘RSSB’s research projects are bringing modern thinking and analysis to age old issues, and will enable more goods to be hauled by train without needing investment in new infrastructure or rolling stock’, said Rail Minister Huw Merriman on November 16.