The Port of Tilbury out beyond the east of London is being highlighted as a beneficiary of HS2 when it opens, even though it’s nowhere near HS2.
HS2 is ramping up the campaign to inform people that HS2 is really rather less about the HS and very much more about adding capacity to the railways so that more of the non-HS trains can fit onto the tracks.
And Tilbury has a lot of very long and very slow trains — freight trains, bringing in goods and sending out exports.
When you have a rail network that is already bursting at the seams carrying passengers, it’s harder to squeeze in more freight trains, and that means more freight has to be carried by roads instead.
Road freight has the advantage of door-to-door capabilities, but for long-distance deliveries, it’s about three times worse in terms of CO2 emissions than doing the same delivery by rail. With the rise over the past decade or so of massive logistics hubs for retail and home shopping, freight by rail is therefore seeing a welcome increase in demand.
A freight train can carry the same cargo load as 76 lorries.
The difficulty is fitting more freight trains onto the network, especially the heavily routes from London northwards.
As previously shown, the main purpose of HS2 is to create more space on the railways — which seems slightly obvious, more railway track means more space. But as HS2 is going to be almost exclusively for intercity trains, that means all the intercity trains on the existing commuter routes vanish.
That’s loads more capacity for the daily commuter travelling to work, and more space for freight trains – which in turn means fewer lorries on the roads.
In advance of HS2’s opening, the Port of Tilbury is building a new cargo terminal nearby with a dedicated railway freight facility – Tilbury 2. This will be able to handle trains up to 775 metres long (nearly double the length of an HS2 train) and will handle bulk cargo such as aggregates, spoil – and expand an existing cut glass facility operated by URM Glass that collects glass for recycling from across the UK, processed then sent to Cheshire for converting back into usable glass bottles.
You could say that HS2 will it easier and cheaper to boost glass recycling in the UK – which isn’t the normal sort of HS2 headline that people read.