Posted 14th December 2022 | 6 Comments

Freight volumes fall, and strikes are blamed

Railfreight down ++ The Office of Rail and Road has reported that freight volumes fell between 1 July and 30 September. The regulator said the drop had been caused by strikes. Total freight moved was four billion net tonne kilometres, which was 6.4 per cent lower than in the same three months a year earlier. The chief executive of the industry lobby group Rail Partners, Andy Bagnall, has warned that the decline underlines the ‘negative impact industrial action is having on rail freight demand, despite not directly involving the freight companies’. He continued: ‘Some customers are already losing confidence due to the disruption and switching from rail to road. There is a very real risk that if resolution is not achieved quickly, more customers will choose less environmentally sustainable modes in the long term. This not only puts the potential growth of the sector at risk, but it also undermines the ability of rail freight to contribute to wider economic growth and support the achievement of net zero targets.’

Radio row ++ Train services are badly disrupted again today by the first 48-hour RMT strike of train operating and Network Rail staff this week. Many lines are closed for a second day, and another strike is set to be staged on Friday and Saturday in the continuing dispute over pay and conditions. Meanwhile, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has accused the BBC of ‘parroting’ the right-wing press. In a heated exchange with Today programme presenter Mishal Husain, Mr Lynch said: ‘You never show any admiration for the fight that working people are putting up for our country, for the rebalancing of society. You never criticise the super-rich for what they're doing to nurses, what they're doing to postal workers, and you never seem to take an impartial view on the way this society is balanced at the moment with the complete lack of distribution of wealth.’ The BBC has declined to comment.

Reader Comments:

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

  • david C Smith, Bletchley

    Having criticised the Unions' role in this , I do wonder about governmental attitudes too. Are they, as some claim, acting as "spanner in the works"as far as bringing about a resolution is concerned ?

    It has been noted before that so much governmental involvement has brought the railway malign , rather than benign results. A privatised railway can only thrive if given commercial freedom ( look at how the freight companies have been quietly succeeding ), As for passenger service, governmentally controlled private operations just give rise to internal contradictoryness . This sort of setup was rife under the prewar German and Italian fascist regimes.

    Yes, either give individual operators commercial freedom , where effective competition is feasible, or run them as public bodies under local direct democracy where monoply conditions obtain !

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    From the BBC Radio interview the other day [Radio 4 Today programme, Tuesday] it certainly seems like Mick has more on his mind than what's supposed to be his job - dealing with his employees pay & conditions for a new contract with employers. Yes he's partly doing that, but It definitely sounded like he's fighting some sort of political battle against the government and using his members to forward his own political ideology. Not every RMT member is a Labour voting anti-government ideologue. It;s time Mick acknowledged that and set his politics aside and just got back to his day job. And whether he acknowledges it or not, carrying on this battle IS going to reduce income to the railway, reduce the passenger services offered, shift rail freight to road, and therefore require less workers (i.e. RMT members to pay his wages). If he wants to fight a political battle stand for parliament in the next election.

  • david C Smith, Bletchley

    From the early 20th century, there have been attempts from way - out political fanatics to subvert the society in which we live. The 1960's and 70's saw this happening particularly within the car industry , Although prime minister Thatcher acted sometimes with an absence of compassion , she somehow freed the economy from such as "red Robbo". But our homegrown car makers "bit the dust". More recently ,the PC / "woke" people, seem to be at it from another direction.

    Are we witnessing a similar thing in the rail industry now ? Do Mick and his mates have an undeclared agenda ? With the "ball on the other foot", a lot of these things were able to happen because so many workers were frustrated and fed up with the lack of competence and dedication within some company managements. It's all there in the Peter Sellers film "I'm allright Jack".

    An enthusiastic and clued- up staff in the TOCs, FOCs and ROSCOs , not to mention Network Rail make all the difference !

    I was a trade union member for many years, and could see these sort of things "on the go".

  • H. Gillies-Smith, South Milford

    What's the expression 'turkey's voting for Christmas'? Hang about, in all my 39 years membership in rail unions I never did get the opportunity to vote on anything.

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    It's seems the RMT and the majority of its voting members have never heard the old saying "Don't bite the hand that feeds you". They seem hell bent on what certainly appears to be a suicidal path for the rail industry and many of their own jobs (union leadership excluded of course). Like Putin it appears Lynch is using his members as cannon fodder).

  • king arthur, buckley

    We've been here before haven't we? It didn't end well previously and it won't end well now. In recent times things were finally starting to look up for the rail industry, but only for a moment.

    The railway is now increasingly being seen as a liability, by both passengers and freight customers. There's endless cancellations and disruption from hot, cold and wet weather, signal failures, staff shortages, a chronic lack of infrastructure, bottlenecks and congestion, railway management that take decades to do anything (even installing a new set of points seems an insurmountable task in 2022), an insane health and safety culture and now the unions stick the knife in.

    It's not hard to see why past freight customers picked up the phone and called a road haulier. Many will do so again.