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Economics

Environmental considerations
Aggregate transportation has a high environmental cost. Noise, dust, CO2 and particulate pollution from diesel engines all have a negative impact on the environment. In the case of road haulage, it results in additional wear and congestion on roadways. Good working practice is employed by most quarry operators to reduce the environmental impacts of road haulage. Vehicles are usually covered and are washed prior to leaving the quarry after loading to minimise dust pollution. The operational times may be restricted to reduce the nuisance, noise and congestion experienced by local communities. The use of rail or water transport in place of road can have a significant effect given the amount of aggregate a single rail locomotive can haul in comparison with trucks, and the benefits are even greater for water-borne transport.
     
A single train load of aggregate can eliminate 75 truck trips. Clearly the preference exists for quarries to be served by rail or water links, but infrastructural costs can be prohibative.
 
Clearly the preference exists for quarries to be served by rail or water links and for the quarrying activity itself to be remote from the urban environment, but the costs of transportation and the location of major markets within urban areas lacking suitable water or rail links are major considerations.

Meeting future demand
The aim of recycling the maximum possible amount of aggregate materials and utilising secondary materials is supported by the quarrying industry. However, recycling is not without environmental cost as recycled aggregates often have to be transported longer distances from multiple sources to the production plant.


A self discharging train in London

A self discharging train in London.

  A dredger being unloaded in central London

A dredger being unloaded in central London.

     
The Government will, at present, provide some 50% of the capital cost of developing rail and inland water facilities to move aggregate from road to rail or water through the Freight Facilities Grant.
 
This has economic implications, as well as generating noise and dust pollution more widely. It is also recognised that in many cases much more energy is required to re-cycle than to produce primary aggregate. Quarrying for construction materials currently occupies a fraction of 1% of the landmass and we have resources in the UK for countless centuries. However, reserves are not always located close to centres of demand and transportation is likely to become an increasingly important issue as reserves around our conurbations are exhausted or sterilised by development. In the medium term, establishing a wider network of regional distribution centres to receive aggregates by rail and/or water could reduce aggregate road miles. It must, however, be recognised that there are capacity constraints to substantially increased rail movement of aggregates and the future availability of wharves will be a constraint in increasing coastal shipments. The Government will, at present, provide some 50% of the capital cost of developing rail and inland water facilities to move aggregate from road to rail or water through the Freight Facilities Grant. The concept of remote coastal superquarries supplying distant markets by sea and inland waterways is widely promoted as a future direction to supply our need for aggregates. Nevertheless, there are also major concerns about port and wharf infrastructure that are both capable of taking seaborne shipments (few ports can accommodate shipments of 90 000 tonnes or more) and importantly have adequate transport links to move the material to market.