In February 2021, we completed a long-term project to allow longer freight trains into the Port of Southampton.

Longer trains can now run into Southampton Western Docks

The Southampton Freight Train Lengthening (SFTL) scheme has enabled our freight operators to run longer trains into Southampton Western Docks in Millbrook and the Freightliner Maritime Terminal in Redbridge, two key parts of Britain’s freight network.

DB Cargo and GB Railfreight can now operate trains up to 750 metres long at Western Docks, carrying vehicles, gypsum and intermodal containers. Freightliner can now operate trains up to 775 metres long to and from their Maritime Terminal, the country’s second busiest container port. That’s an increase of up to 20% more goods being transported by rail.

How we did it

Work was carried out over three phases. The first phase, which began in late 2019, saw us install new sidings in the Redbridge area, giving longer freight trains sufficient space to stop before being loaded and unloaded.

The second phase in late 2020 was dedicated to increasing the speed at which freight trains could travel between Southampton Central and Redbridge. By installing new track we were able to raise the speed limit for freight services in the area, meaning that trains could cross from passenger to freight lines quicker.

This was an important change as longer freight trains take more time to clear signals and switches and crossings. With new track and a higher speed limit, they can now move out of the way of passenger services quicker, removing the potential for delays.

In early 2021 the third and final phase of the project saw big modifications to track and the commissioning of new signalling.

The lines around the two freight terminals were extensively remodelled to provide greater flexibility to our freight operators. Before the remodelling, trains had to move in and out of the area to load and unload goods, but by remodelling they can stay in one place and there is less of a need for shunting containers and wagons. Efficiency has improved by as much as 30% as a result.

In mid-February 2021 the lines between Southampton Central and Brockenhurst and Romsey were closed for a week while we commissioned 22 new signals to go with the mile of new track we installed across all three phases.

On February 19 we completed the main work of the project and all three of our freight operators began running longer trains.

Environmental benefits

All three freight operators in Southampton are now able to carry more goods by rail, including intermodal containers. Freightliner alone will be able to transport up to 84 extra containers per day with their six, 775 metre long trains that travel to the Midlands and the North.

With each container having the same carrying capacity as one Heavy Goods Vehicle, it’s good news for local roads and the environment. With less goods being transported by HGVs and more by rail, congestion on roads and emissions are both reduced.

In the project’s first phase, when we installed new sidings in the Redbridge area, we had to make a number of changes to areas of land around the railway. For every tree that we were forced to remove, we funded Southampton City Council to plant up to twice as many in their place and handed back an area of land for the council to create a new park.

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