Scotland may soon see the introduction of half-mile long freight trains on its tracks. Plans for the new trains, the longest in operation, are part of expansion proposals for the Mossend freight forwarding railhead in Lanarkshire by operator PDS. It’s expected that PDS will lodge plans for a new siding, long enough to house the 770-metre long freight trains – current freight trains run to 600 metres long.
The Mossend centre, the furthest north the trains would be able to run, currently handles a variety of different freight that is transferred between rail and road. PDS’s plans are part of a new distribution park at its Bellshill site, which would take advantage of the M8 motorway between Glasgow and Edinburgh once it’s completed.
The additional 170 metres of capacity the longer trains would offer could help reduce strain on current operations without requiring the need for additional trains. Tracks are congested by the need for slow-moving freight trains to share the west coast mainline between Glasgow and London with high-speed passenger trains. While the longer length freight trains won’t change that issue, they will mean that additional freight trains won’t be required on the tracks to meet demand.
Scotland spokesman David Spaven said: “It’s very encouraging the private sector is continuing to invest substantially in new terminal facilities, but the public sector has to play its part too, by enhancing the route infrastructure to accommodate the longer trains which are the key to rail economics.
“We need 775m loop sidings on the west coast main line if big freight trains running at 75mph are to find suitable paths amongst 125mph passenger services.
“From the Central Belt to Aberdeen – a key corridor for new rail traffic such as supermarket supplies – 450m long trains can convey the equivalent of some 25 lorry loads, but intermediate loops are needed to handle this length of train.”
Dubbed ‘supertrains’, these half-mile long freight trains could mean faster service times as capacity increases. And while PDS admits that the issue of sharing the line with passenger trains needs to be resolved before any expansion can be implemented, plans are being put in place to introduce supertrains throughout the rest of the UK, with rail freight terminals across the country being prepared for the longer length trains. Once introduced, the supertrains will allow rail freight more competitive with road freight in the future.