The EXCITE project has achieved a real breakthrough for cross-Channel rail freight, in permitting high-cube swap bodies and piggyback trailers to be moved by rail between mainland Europe and the United Kingdom, as well as UIC-GB1 gauge conventional wagons. The project, backed by the European Commission's Marco Polo programme, has involved modifications to the onboard signalling systems of existing "Class 92" electric locomotives.
The UK's "loading gauge" is smaller than most mainland European countries, which restricts the height and width of rail vehicles and intermodal load units, which thus constrains the competitiveness of cross-Channel intermodal and conventional rail freight services, relative to road transport.
The completion of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, now known as High Speed 1, has created the first UIC-gauge railway in the UK, linking mainland Europe to London via the Channel Tunnel.
The outcomes for the project have been to demonstrate and sustain an ongoing range of UIC-gauge freight services into the UK, and to determine the extent to which the operational parameters on High Speed 1 can be improved, using experience gained from the trial period. The results from the trials will also be made available to assist freight operators and users looking to operate over high-speed and other dedicated passenger railways.
More information on the project can be found on this website.