Posted 29th April 2020 | 1 Comment

Rail freight operators ‘cautiously optimistic’

MORE than half of the businesses connected with rail freight have furloughed some of their staff, according to a new survey from the Rail Freight Group.

Most firms said they had been affected by the emergency, with 54 per cent having closed parts of their business or expecting to do so soon.

Various problems have been highlighted, including ‘significant interruption to normal operations’ as well as reduced demand and declining customer orders, cash flow worries and the interruption or suspension of business.

Delays in obtaining planning decisions have also been a hurdle but sickness has not been a particular problem, with four out of five firms saying that sickness levels were below 10 per cent.

Even so, there is ‘cautious optimism’ about a return to normal, with 45 per cent of the respondents expecting that to happen this year, although 71 per cent expect it to take more than two months. A delay of more than six months is being predicted by 38 per cent.

Rail Freight Group director-general Maggie Simpson said: ‘Rail freight is playing a key role in keeping goods and supplies moving across the UK supporting the economy and communities.  Yet the sector is also being adversely affected by these unique challenges, and our members are telling us of the difficult actions they are having to take to protect their businesses. 

‘It is encouraging to see that many businesses expect to see some return to normality this year, but this will only happen with continued support from Government and a steady and considered approach to rebuilding business activity.’

Reader Comments:

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  • david c smith, Bletchley

    Since privatisation, coal traffic has pretty well disappeared, whilst the big success story has been in moving containers to / from the major ports.

    There appears to be a potential for "merchandise" freight that doesn't move in containers, but uses road semitrailers as the unit of movement , for whatever reasons ( some factories and warehouses are configured for semitrailers rather than for container handling, for example).

    There is currently a French bimodal / piggyback technology , "Modalohr",which is based on semitrailers being driven onto rail wagons from an angle at the side of the train , and then rotated to align with the train.Back in the early 1990's, a very similar system "Charterail" was started in this country and started to gain custom. This was not continued , as the locomotive haulage rates , courtesy of BR, were set too high, it was claimed.

    This system did not need specially strengthened semitrailers, as no lifting was involved. The only limiting factor was the loading guage, of course, meaning the system was suited to transporting more compact semitrailers, carrying relatively dense products . Further, since the early 90's, some lines have now been guage - enhanced to take 9' 6" containers.

    Would it be time now to explore this type of system, especially for "inland" movements , including through the "Chunnel"?