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Journal ArticleDOI

The impacts on freight train operational performance of new rail infrastructure to segregate passenger and freight traffic

01 Jan 2017-Journal of Transport Geography (Elsevier)-Vol. 58, pp 176-185

Abstract: Rail freight has an important role to play in improving the resource efficiency and sustainability of freight transport within the supply chain. The British rail network has seen considerable growth of both freight and passenger activity in the last 20 years, leading to concerns about its capacity to absorb continued growth. A number of infrastructure initiatives focused on increasing capacity and reducing conflicts have been implemented. This includes the North Doncaster Chord, opened in June 2014 primarily to provide a more direct route from the port of Immingham to the major Aire Valley power stations (i.e. Drax, Eggborough and Ferrybridge). The paper analyses the freight impacts of the new chord, focusing on three key operational measures (i.e. train routing, scheduled journey times and train punctuality) during 10-week survey periods before and after the opening of the chord. The analysis is based on real-time data relating to coal and biomass trains operating between Immingham and the three power stations. This is a novel approach as the data have been made publicly available only recently, allowing a detailed investigation of the flows on this corridor at a highly disaggregated level. The use of this empirical method to assess the detailed rail freight operational impacts is an important element in the process of evaluating the effects of network enhancement. The results demonstrate improvements in each of the three operational measures, but also reveal a situation considerably more complex than that suggested by the published material relating to the justification for this new infrastructure.
Topics: Rail freight transport (61%), Traffic management (58%), Train (54%), Punctuality (50%)

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The impacts on freight train operational performance of new rail
infrastructure to segregate passenger and freight traffic
Woodburn, A.G.
NOTICE: this is the authors’ version of a work that was accepted for publication in
Journal of Transport Geography. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such
as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control
mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to
this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently
published in Journal of Transport Geography, 58, 176-185, 2017.
The final definitive version in Journal of Transport Geography is available online at:
https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2016.12.006
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The impacts on freight train operational performance of new rail infrastructure
to segregate passenger and freight traffic
Allan Woodburn
Planning & Transport Department, University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London,
NW1 5LS, United Kingdom
Abstract
Rail freight has an important role to play in improving the resource efficiency and
sustainability of freight transport within the supply chain. The British rail network has seen
considerable growth of both freight and passenger activity in the last 20 years, leading to
concerns about its capacity to absorb continued growth. A number of infrastructure
initiatives focused on increasing capacity and reducing conflicts have been implemented.
This includes the North Doncaster Chord, opened in June 2014 primarily to provide a more
direct route from the port of Immingham to the major Aire Valley power stations (i.e. Drax,
Eggborough and Ferrybridge).
The paper analyses the freight impacts of the new chord, focusing on three key operational
measures (i.e. train routing, scheduled journey times and train punctuality) during 10-week
survey periods before and after the opening of the chord. The analysis is based on real-time
data relating to coal and biomass trains operating between Immingham and the three power
stations. This is a novel approach as the data have been made publicly available only
recently, allowing a detailed investigation of the flows on this corridor at a highly
disaggregated level. The use of this empirical method to assess the detailed rail freight
operational impacts is an important element in the process of evaluating the effects of
network enhancement. The results demonstrate improvements in each of the three
operational measures, but also reveal a situation considerably more complex than that
suggested by the published material relating to the justification for this new infrastructure.
Keywords: Rail freight; transport infrastructure; transport efficiency; disaggregated freight
data; United Kingdom

2
1. Introduction
European transport policy favours a much increased role for rail in meeting the growing
requirement for both freight and passenger movement (European Commission, 2011). In
Britain, rail's share of the domestic freight market (measured in tonne kilometres) reached a
low of 6 per cent in 1995 before rising to 9 per cent in 2012 and its share of passenger
kilometres increased from 5 per cent to 9 per cent in the same period (DfT, 2015). The
growth in network activity is exacerbating the conflicts that arise from the operation of a
mixed traffic railway (i.e. one that caters for both passenger and freight traffic) due, for
example, to the incidence of flat junctions between converging or diverging routes and to
speed differentials between varied types of train. At the European level, there is a desire to
develop a rail freight priority network, making rail a more attractive option for freight flows by
improving capacity, journey times and other aspects of service quality (European
Commission, 2007). International rail freight corridors are under development as part of the
European Rail Network for Competitive Freight, concentrating on improving service quality
through a focus on infrastructure capacity and performance (DG MOVE, 2011). The
Strategic Freight Network (SFN) was introduced in the United Kingdom in 2007 (DfT, 2007)
with similar national objectives and committed funding until at least 2019 (DfT, 2012).
Despite the focus on capacity and performance, detailed published analysis of the
operational impacts of new infrastructure designed to remove such conflicts is lacking,
particularly with regard to rail freight activity. This is surprising, since infrastructure
enhancements have the potential to improve service quality and reduce costs, both critical
issues for potential rail freight customers when making mode choice decisions (ORR, 2012;
Directorate General for Internal Policies, 2015). The objective of this paper, therefore, is to
evaluate the key rail freight operational impacts resulting from the opening in June 2014 of a
new section of railway line in the United Kingdom, known as the North Doncaster Chord.
The chord provides a more direct route for imported coal (and, latterly, biomass) traffic from
the port of Immingham, on the Humber estuary on Britain’s east coast, to the three large Aire

3
Valley power stations. There is no financial or cost-benefit analysis in the public domain but,
importantly for the project’s justification, the chord has removed a bottleneck by providing a
freight route independent of the busy East Coast Main Line (ECML), where capacity had
been limited by the mix of fast passenger trains and slower freight trains (Network Rail,
2011). The segregation of these previously conflicting flows allows more, and possibly more
reliable, passenger trains to operate on the ECML. While it is conceivable, perhaps even
likely, that ECML passenger benefits were the main justification for the investment in the
chord, this paper focuses specifically on the freight impacts.
The paper is methodologically innovative since it is based on the detailed analysis of real-
time train running data captured for almost 2,000 freight trains in total during similar periods
before and after the opening of the chord. This data source has only recently been made
publicly available in Britain and no similar research from other countries has been identified
from the published literature.
A review of relevant literature follows in Section 2. Section 3 then presents the background
to the study, both regarding trends in recent British rail network activity and, specifically, the
context for the North Doncaster Chord itself. Section 4 sets out the methodology adopted for
this empirical investigation. The detailed results of the before-and-after survey relating to
train routing, journey times and train punctuality are presented in Section 5, leading into a
more detailed investigation of the ‘after’ survey in Section 6. A discussion of the implications
of the study’s findings is presented in Section 7. Section 8 ends the paper, setting out the
key conclusions and the wider applicability of the research approach.
2. Literature review
Both cost and service quality are important in determining which mode of transport will be
selected for freight flows. In reviewing the literature, Samimi et al. (2011, 859) found that the
dominant attributes influencing freight mode choice were “accessibility, reliability, cost, time,

4
flexibility and past experience with each mode”. A survey of existing and potential rail freight
customers in Britain (ORR, 2012) identified that on-time delivery was ranked as the second
most important service attribute after cost/price. Other attributes ranked as being of high
importance included network access, overall service quality and flexible service/recovery
strategy. When questioned about rail’s performance, on-time delivery and overall service
quality were ranked highly by customers but cost/price and, particularly, flexible
service/recovery strategy received low rankings despite being important attributes.
Compared with passenger transport, where research regularly investigates the impacts of
network changes on people’s trip-making, journey opportunities and travel behaviour (see,
for example, Bjarnason, 2014; Shaw et al., 2014), there is little detailed investigation of the
impacts of infrastructure enhancements on freight transport activity, particularly within rail.
Rail network capacity, and how it is utilised, is an important determinant of train service
performance. Capacity is influenced by infrastructure, traffic and operating characteristics
(Abril et al., 2008). The focus of much of the published literature is on the modelling and
simulation of capacity utilisation, often built on assumptions of traffic and operating
characteristics which are narrowly defined. Urban passenger rail systems feature more
strongly than mixed traffic railways, although some attention has been devoted to freight.
Miller-Hooks et al. (2012) highlighted the effects of network resilience on service
performance, taking account of planned capacity usage, robustness of the plan and flexibility
to deal with disruptions. In common with this paper’s focus, Liu & Kozan (2011) considered
network operations and capacity constraints for a coal rail market, though in Australia and
with the crucial difference that their coal flows were on a dedicated, self-contained network.
Gedik et al. (2014) also focus on coal flows, assessing network vulnerability and disruption
recovery in the USA; while the flows were not on a self-contained network, they used a
freight-dominant network rather than a mixed traffic railway like Britain’s. Other studies (see,
for example, Godwin et al, 2007; Cacchiani et al., (2010); Kuo et al., 2010) have considered
freight train scheduling and routing on a mixed traffic railway but develop modelling

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05 Dec 2014
Abstract: 1.2 The EESC agrees that the 2050 vision goal of a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction of 60 % in the transport sector, although very challenging, is in line with the EU's overall climate policy aims and that it strikes a reasonable balance between the need for quick reductions of greenhouse gases and the time needed to optimise energy efficiency in a single European Transport Area and develop new and sustainable fuels and propulsion systems in order to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

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Abstract: In this paper, we review the main concepts and methods to perform capacity analyses, and we present an automated tool that is able to perform several capacity analyses. Capacity is extremely dependent on infrastructure, tra‐c, and operating parameters. Therefore, an in-depth study of the main factors that in∞uence railway capacity is performed on several Spanish railway infrastructures. The results show how the capacity varies according to factors such as train speed, commercial stops, train heterogeneity, distance between railway signals, and timetable robustness. One consequence of the globalization of the economy and the increasing integration of the international economies is a considerable growth in the entire transport sector. During the 1990’s, many countries began to sufier from congestion in certain areas and on certain routes. Nowadays, there is no doubt about the congestion of the transport situation in some countries. The problem is now beginning to threaten economic competitiveness. Greater economic development cannot take place in the current transport scenario unless ambitious measures are taken. Revitalizing the railways is one of the principal measures

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    [...]

  • ...Capacity is influenced by infrastructure, traffic and operating characteristics (Abril et al., 2008)....

    [...]

  • ...Capacity is influenced by infrastructure, traffic and operating characteristics (Abril et al., 2008). The focus of much of the published literature is on the modelling and simulation of capacity utilisation, often built on assumptions of traffic and operating characteristics which are narrowly defined. Urban passenger rail systems feature more strongly than mixed traffic railways, although some attention has been devoted to freight. Miller-Hooks et al. (2012) highlighted the effects of network resilience on service performance, taking account of planned capacity usage, robustness of the plan and flexibility to deal with disruptions. In common with this paper’s focus, Liu & Kozan (2011) considered network operations and capacity constraints for a coal rail market, though in Australia and with the crucial difference that their coal flows were on a dedicated, self-contained network. Gedik et al. (2014) also focus on coal flows, assessing network vulnerability and disruption recovery in the USA; while the flows were not on a self-contained network, they used a freight-dominant network rather than a mixed traffic railway like Britain’s....

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  • ...Capacity is influenced by infrastructure, traffic and operating characteristics (Abril et al., 2008). The focus of much of the published literature is on the modelling and simulation of capacity utilisation, often built on assumptions of traffic and operating characteristics which are narrowly defined. Urban passenger rail systems feature more strongly than mixed traffic railways, although some attention has been devoted to freight. Miller-Hooks et al. (2012) highlighted the effects of network resilience on service performance, taking account of planned capacity usage, robustness of the plan and flexibility to deal with disruptions....

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  • ...Capacity is influenced by infrastructure, traffic and operating characteristics (Abril et al., 2008). The focus of much of the published literature is on the modelling and simulation of capacity utilisation, often built on assumptions of traffic and operating characteristics which are narrowly defined. Urban passenger rail systems feature more strongly than mixed traffic railways, although some attention has been devoted to freight. Miller-Hooks et al. (2012) highlighted the effects of network resilience on service performance, taking account of planned capacity usage, robustness of the plan and flexibility to deal with disruptions. In common with this paper’s focus, Liu & Kozan (2011) considered network operations and capacity constraints for a coal rail market, though in Australia and with the crucial difference that their coal flows were on a dedicated, self-contained network....

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  • ...…investigates the impacts of network changes on people’s trip-making, journey opportunities and travel behaviour (see, for example, Bjarnason, 2014; Shaw et al., 2014), there is little detailed investigation of the impacts of infrastructure enhancements on freight transport activity, particularly…...

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