AECOM Rail Freight Study
In March 2023, CNER met with AECOM to input to their ongoing study examining rail freight possibilities now that Aberdeen South Harbour is operational. This study was commissioned by NESTRANS and will inform on potential projects to maximise benefits of the recently opened harbour. STPR2 recommended work be done by the Scottish Government to increase the amount of freight carried by rail. CNER is one of many groups and businesses who have input into the study.
Here is what we discussed:
- Noted that CNER are in regular dialogue with a range of different bodies.
- In terms of freight, work already undertaken by CNER is published on the website (www.campaignfornortheastrail.org) – this considered Aberdeen South Harbour (ASH) and how best to maximise rail freight opportunities.
- Noted that use of ASH frees up capacity in the existing harbour (ANH) and enables additional vessels to be taken in. This is releasing potential for other activities to then be promoted at ANH. Existing rail connections to ANH via Waterloo Quay allow this released capacity to open up opportunities for sea-rail interaction at ANH.
- Noted that ASH linkages are not without technical challenges – there is a significant gradient to overcome from the railway line down to the harbour. CNER have established an indicative alignment in which to address this, however noted that campaigning has quietened on this front in response to local campaign efforts to 'Save St Fitticks park'.
- Constraints exist that prevent industry from capturing the potential sea-rail Freight interaction at Waterloo Quay. Notably, freight gauge through two tunnels north of Aberdeen Station (Schoolhill, and Hutcheon Street). These currently prevent W12 refrigerated containers from passing through the section, thus prevent vessels carrying standard shipping containers from transferring to rail for conveyance south to Central Belt and beyond.
- Further, capacity constraints through Aberdeen Rail Station prevent additional paths for freight trains, thus hold back expansion of freight at Waterloo, as well as the entire Aberdeen - Inverness line. Minor improvements in he station could be ‘game-changing’ for capacity. Currently, 80+ hours per week are spent shunting trains out of the way of other trains due to capacity constraints. Two interventions can be implemented at low cost, each providing an increase in capacity. These are; 1. Replacement of single-direction crossover between Platforms 6 and 7 with a two-way crossover. This would provide additional through paths on the existing platforms, allowing for more train movements, and increasing scheduling flexibility and resilience. This work is simple, the parts are 'off the shelf', and disruption would be minimal. An example of the double crossover suggested can be seen between Platforms 19/20 and 1/2 in Edinburgh Waverly. 2. Reintroducing Platform 8. This would provide an additional through path for train movements, and two additional platforms for passenger arrivals and departures. This also allows a route for freight trains to wait in Aberdeen Station for paths heading south. Works would be simple, Platform 8 previously operated for passenger service in Aberdeen. Track can be relaid, signalling provided at platform end, and the existing headhunt repositioned to the trackbed of Platform 9.
- Noted that the existing Waterloo Quay and Raiths Farm are underutilised due to the constraints mentioned, but direct link to the sea provide opportunity and potential for rail freight growth should these constraints be addressed.
- CNER have also been involved in discussions with AGCC on hydrogen.
- Noted that hydrogen is more expensive as a fuel than diesel at present, as evidenced by recent studies in Germany. But potential Hydrogen production facilities as part of the Acorn Project at St Fergus could provide further support for a Buchan rail link, and facilitate the introduction of Hydrogen trains running on locally produced hydrogen. It was further noted that Buchan Rail would allow for Acorn CO2 imports from UK via Rail, rather than the currently planned sea connection at Peterhead. This outcome would improve the overall carbon impact of the Acorn Project, and minimise HGV load on North East roads, particularly around Peterhead and St Fergus.