Rail freight


Consumer rail freight movement reaches record high

Record growth in two of the main rail freight markets has continued, according to a report published yesterday.

The Office of Rail and Road’s (ORR) latest quarterly rail freight figures have revealed that construction traffic has increased by 2% compared to Q2 last year, moving 1.1 billion net tonne kilometres, which the ORR have attributed to an increased demand in materials for housing repair.

Consumer traffic rose by 1% compared to the same period last year, which is the highest volume recorded since the start of the time series in 1998-99, possibly driven by growth in the retail sector increasing demand for goods moved by rail freight.

Combined consumer and construction intermodal freight accounted for two thirds of total rail freight moved this quarter, which is considerably higher than the same quarter in 2013, where they accounted for 44% of freight.

The sector has also seen an increase in the movement of “other” and international goods, with Eurotunnel reporting record levels of cross-channel traffic during Q2.

Rail freight activity is showing some signs of recovery, with overall freight moved by rail rising by 2% last quarter; although the movement of metal, oil and coal has continued to fall, with coal traffic at a record low, moving just 0.28 billion net tonne kilometres.

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail manager, Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Rail freight has a key role in servicing industry in a safer cleaner way which reduces road congestion and improves productivity.”

She explained that according to new research, transferring a further 2,000 lorry loads of freight to rail each day, where there is a parallel rail route, could reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions by 10% and particulates by 7% on each corridor.

She added: “HGVs account for around 21% of road transport nitrogen dioxide emissions while making up for just 5% of vehicle miles so instead of building yet more roads, priority should be given to upgrading the rail freight network to reduce air pollution, congestion and collisions.”

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an RTM columnist? If so, click here.


Nonsuchmike   22/12/2017 at 15:05

Philippa Edmunds & others are so right: we must move more goods about the UK by rail freight. This includes UK exporters as well as importers, internal movements and sales, especially long distance food & furniture transportation. To this end we need improved interconnectivity and more flexible routes such as the Bacon curve @ Ipswich, Halton Curve in Cheshire to name but two. Doubling railtracks in so many places reduced to SLW including to Felixstowe allows all to win: those who schedule freight around the clock and also passenger services which customers need.

Jak Jaye   23/12/2017 at 10:27

Should never have got rid of Speedlink the most short sighted decision of a lifetime,just check the USA wall to wall wagon load freight

Andrew Gwilt   23/12/2017 at 20:23

The new freight only chord at Ipswich that was built is part of the Felixstowe-Nuneaton freight movement which allows freight trains to avoid the GEML and to help reduce the amount of HGV’s travelling between Port of Felixstowe and the West Midlands via the A14 but some freight trains are still using the GEML to take cargo and other logistics to other factories located across the UK.

Huguenot   28/12/2017 at 11:28

Yes, Andrew, but that is because we are still awaiting the much-needed investment in the Felixtowe-Nuneaton route. It's crying out for doubling at Soham, loop extension and other works at Ely, additional capacity at Leicester and a general signalling and track upgrade for the whole route. It's a no-brainer and with all the problems on the A14 it could have been done by now, reaping environmental and decongestion benefits. (And it's not even an electrification issue!) Meanwhile, a lot of freight still has to find a path through the North London Line to reach the WCML. What a crazy world.

Nonsuchmike   09/02/2018 at 13:51

Sometimes, Hugo, you just know exactly how the government of the day is shooting itself in the foot when they can't even upgrade as a matter of priority the sections you & others have mentioned. The investment cost would be repaid within four years after completion as more traffic will avail itself of these intercommunicative chords, dualling & junction improvements.

Add your comment


rail technology magazine tv

more videos >

latest rail news

Union to continue with controversial four-day Easter Weekend strike

16/03/2018Union to continue with controversial four-day Easter Weekend strike

Union members working for South Western Railway (SWR) are to go through with a four-day strike running across both bank holidays over the Easter ... more >
NR slapped with £730,000 fine for Gloucester freight derailment

16/03/2018NR slapped with £730,000 fine for Gloucester freight derailment

Network Rail has been ordered to pay £733,000 fines after a court found that its failure to adequately maintain track had caused a freight ... more >
Network Rail sees more than £200m in retail sales in Q4 2017

15/03/2018Network Rail sees more than £200m in retail sales in Q4 2017

Retail sales at Network Rail managed stations grew by 3.5% in the final quarter of 2017, it was revealed today. Between April and December 2017 ... more >

editor's comment

23/01/2018Out with the old...

Despite a few disappointing policy announcements, especially for the electrification aficionados amongst us, 2017 was, like Darren Caplan writes on page 20, a year generally marked by positive news for the rail industry. We polished off the iconic Ordsall Chord (p32), hit some solid milestones on Thameslink (p40), progressed on ambitious rolling stock orders (p16), and finally started moving forward on HS2 (p14) ‒ paving the way for a New Ye... read more >

last word

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

Encouraging youngsters to be safe on the railway

This summer, Arriva Group's CrossCountry and the Scout Association joined to launch a new partnership to promote rail safety among young people. Chris Leech MBE, business community manager at the... more > more last word articles >

'the sleepers' daily blog

How can UK rail become a global leader?

06/03/2018How can UK rail become a global leader?

Alison Dervis, EY director, explains why more diverse thinking, innovation and industry collaboration will help deliver transformative change to the railway industry. From late Georgian steam engines, to the multibillion-pound civil engineering projects of modern day, Britain’s railways have a legendary and inspiring tale to tell of... more >
read more blog posts from 'the sleeper' >


Smart Ticketing: The way ahead

13/03/2018Smart Ticketing: The way ahead

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), runs through the nationwide progress in rolling out ... more >
A benchmark year for HS2

13/03/2018A benchmark year for HS2

Jim Crawford, managing director of Phase 1 at HS2 Ltd, discusses the many critical activities set to take place this year as the mammoth high-spe... more >
The North has a plan

13/03/2018The North has a plan

There has always been an incredible thirst for change in the north. Now, there is finally a plan robust and forward-thinking enough to make it ha... more >
EWR: Getting it right

13/03/2018EWR: Getting it right

Peter Austin, delivery director at East West Rail Company (EWRco), argues that completing the link between Oxford and Cambridge as quickly as pos... more >

rail industry focus

  • 08/12/2017A game changer for Midland Metro

    The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) updates RTM’s Luana Salles on the latest projects taking place across the growing Midland Metro...
  • 09/11/2017Testing tomorrow's technology today

    David Brazier, site manager and area sales manager for the UK & Ireland at OMICRON electronics, tells RTM’s Luana Salles about the major...
  • 09/11/2017What next for safety?

    As rail businesses edge towards their target of zero injuries, improving safety performance can plateau. Amey’s sector director for rail, Lee...
View all News


Transforming travel in the north west

06/02/2018Transforming travel in the north west

RTM’s Josh Mines talks to Robin Davis, head of new trains at TransPennine Express (TPE), about the huge rolling stock change journey the co... more >