Posted 12th October 2022 | 2 Comments

Operators call for large increase in rail freight

Train operators are calling for the volume of freight carried by rail to be trebled by 2050.

The call has come from Rail Partners, which is a successor to the Rail Delivery Group and lobbies on behalf of the operators for the greatest possible amount of commercial freedom, now that franchises have been abolished.

Rail Partners says it exists to ‘make the railway better by harnessing the expertise and creativity of private sector operators for the benefit of those who use the railway and those who pay for it, including taxpayers’, and is responding to the call for evidence from the Great British Railways Transition Team about targets for rail freight growth.

Its director of policy John Thomas says: ‘As we look to the reform of our railway, we cannot afford to underplay or leave to chance the opportunity to grow this sector. We must be ambitious and capture the demand we know exists and in doing so support net zero ambitions and spread economic benefits throughout the country.

‘There has been a subtle but important policy shift towards the sector in recent years, compounded by Brexit, the pandemic and in light of the legislative commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

‘The market itself is also responding as customers look for low carbon routes. This is most notable in the tone and content of the Plan for Rail, published in May 2021 which our members welcomed. In particular it commended freight operators for the resilience they demonstrated during the pandemic to ensure that key freight flows were maintained, and the significant agility that rail freight, as a largely private sector industry, has shown in responding to changing customer demands.’

He adds that a ‘relatively small’ amount of public support is needed: ‘We want to see a wider use of incentives to help make rail the mode of choice for potential customers. An example is the Mode Shift Revenue Support grant, which has been successful in attracting price sensitive container traffic to rail from road.’ 

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • david C Smith, Bletchley

    The loss of coal hauling from the modern British rail scene has been counteracted by success in transporting ISO containers, particularly to / from major ports, It seems likely that our freight railway will need to predominately cater for transporting finished and semi- finished goods over the foreseeable future. Although the above ports traffic is doing well, inland and through the Chunnel to the Continent has largely remained in the hands of HGV's. Many warehouses and factories have facilities for handling HGV's but not ISO containers. Despite our loading guage limitations, in 1990- 1991 a "Piggyback" service named "Charterail" did run in Britain , but was terminated due to a clash between Charterail ( a private firm) and BR over haulage fees.
    A modern French equivalent is "Modalohr" , which can be seen in action
    on YouTube. Might this type of approach be looked at by our freight operators ?

  • king arthur, buckley

    There will need to be investment in infrastructure if freight traffic is to be significantly increased, like chord lines, passing loops and improved signalling etc. There is currently a dispute between freight and passenger operators on the relatively quiet Wrexham to Bidston line after it was proposed that passenger services should increase from one service per hour in each direction to two.