I CAN see where N Westerman (Letters, April 1) is coming from but he has missed the point. It’s not that simple!

If one has to ship masses of goods around the world, and that isn’t a given, then probably from a green energy/efficiency angle, large container ships are the preferred solution.

But like any argument, there has to be a practical limit. If one wants to go beyond the capacity of the Suez Canal, there is loads of space in the open ocean, via the Cape.

However, where Westerman’s argument falls apart, is its assumption that once back on land the containers have to be transported by road.

The most efficient means to move bulk quantities from ports is by rail, to local distribution centres. Even diesel hauled, rail is vastly more efficient than road, and if one can use electric traction, even more so.

Sadly, this is yet another area in which this country lags behind Europe.


From most of the major UK container ports there is limited rail capacity e.g. single non electrified track from Felixstowe, and then there are many gaps in the electrified network which makes end to end electric traction unfeasible.

However, look around Europe, and there rail networks into all major ports and joined up electrification for all high volume freight flows.

In recent years more and more train loads of containers are coming from China across Asia and into Europe, even now the odd one into the UK, and it’s growing.

So, sort out the shipping by all means, but then also get rid of lorries for trunk distribution and develop a proper rail electrified routes from the ports to local road distribution centres.

Better still, become a less consumer based society and don’t ship huge quantities of needless consumer goods around the world.

But that’s a different argument all together!

John Farley


Let us know what you think. Send your comments to letters@herefordtimes.com