The Strategic Land Europe (SLE) Sector -  Approach to IntermodaRail Freight Terminals

SLE specialises in identifying and master planning land throughout Europe with the potential to accommodate efficient strategic Rail Freight Intermodal Terminals (RFIT’s) for the rail freight, container shipping and intermodal logistics industries by interfacing with leading container ports and their operators together with rail freight and terminal operators.

The aim is to support the rail industry and government in the supply of new and more efficient rail freight terminals to enable a shift of heavy road traffic from the road to rail, thereby reducing road congestion and pollution.

SLE also interfaces with leading logistics developers to create the optimum Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges (SRFI’s) and logistics interface facilities in any given location.

The overall intent is to enable efficient and sustainable locations for transport operators and investors alike to create land transport efficiencies on a regional, national and international platform.

Strategic Rail Freight Interchanges (SRFI’s)are becoming better known in the UK with a few consents being granted in recent years, perhaps the best know being at Junction 16 on the M1 known as the Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT). SLE interfaces with a wide range of specialist designers and engineers as well as transport statisticians.

Rail Freight Intermodal [SRFI] Infrastructure - often known as Inland Ports - is required to enable the efficient use of rail freightideally as a compatible and interfacing strategic network.

Investment & Development - Intermodal Logistics  - Risk & Reward

From the outset, the 'green field' (preferably brown), there is the land identification, research and exploration of the land, infrastructure, ownership, planning and challenge elements to deal with. 

These are the key elements alongside the rail status and land levels as a 775-metre train terminal ideally needs to flat and straight, as do the logistics and manufacturing buildings which are of considerable size totaling a minimum of 2 million square feet.

But also the height of the buildings and potentially (mainly perceived) noise of the rail freight terminal raise the need for visual and noise screening which essentially means developing the projects as a 'island site' that will also need good road access to the prime highway network, as well as a high level of utility provision.

On the face of it this is a 'tall order' but it also restricts the choice of location and raises the importance of the intermodal facility and potentially the location, once the ideal land is chosen.

Obtaining a planning consent to develop the project can be time-consuming and costly even though the UK government has classified such developments as 'major infrastructure in the national interest' and can be processed through the National Planning Commission but to ensure a 'fast track' timeline, most of the planning input is 'up-front' and very costly with no guarantee of success.

The first cost being the project identification and research, the second is the planning process. However, this process can be refined by any indication of an unworkable project on any of the key factors above.

A Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) while forming part of the overall development, actually encompasses very different investment profiles the principal ones being:-

1.  The Intermodal Rail Freight Hub, and 

2.  The logistics / manufacturing buildings.

Other investment profiles may be seen as the 'servicing' elements on site which may include truck parking and services, container storage etc., Then there may be the overall project with separately funded buidings. 

The main sticking point has previously been the rail freight terminal as their funding is not well understood, so they have been seen as a 'cost' of the overall project.

However, the Intermodal Terminal is in fact now a major infrastructure project and is likely to be a far longer-term investment than the building on site (which can be updated), but only if the project is correctly designed, well-connected to the main rail network and the terminal operated efficiently. Interface with all occupiers and operators is essential.

It follows that there is a clear need both for more strategic intermodal rail freight 'hubs' to become 'state of the art' facilities 
in their own right.