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Amount of rail freight lifted in Q2 slips 18.4%

There was an 18.4% decrease in the amount of freight lifted on the rail network in Q2 of 2015-16, compared to the same quarter last year, according to new figures from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR)

The regulator said the decrease was largely caused by a reduction in the amount of coal lifted, down 48.9% to 4.6 million tonnes from 9.0 million tonnes in the same quarter last year. 

In total, 21.1 million tonnes of rail freight was lifted in Q2 (July, August, September), which is the second lowest quarter two figure and third lowest quarter overall since the start of the time series in 1996-97. 

Freight moved at 4.4 billion net tonnes kilometres in 2015-16 Q2 is also a fall of 16.5% compared to the same quarter last year. 

Maggie Simpson, Rail Freight Group (RFG) executive director, said: “This has been a difficult year for rail freight, with coal traffic falling away and other sectors such as steel and international also beset by problems.” 

Yet increases in construction traffic and continued good performance in intermodal shows that the sector is delivering well for its customers, and we should be confident of continued growth in these markets in future, she added. 

The ORR stated that there are a number of possible reasons for the reduction including the effect of doubling the UK’s top-up carbon tax from 1 April 2015, which continues to impact the amount of coal moved to power plants.  Also, the closure of various power stations including Thoresby Colliery power station impacted the amount of coal moved by rail in this quarter. 

Earlier this week, Sir Peter Hendy released his review into Network Rail’s CP5 funding and announced that the majority of projects would go ahead as planned. However, some projects would be deferred until CP6. 

The RFG expressed its concern at the decision to defer delivery of critical rail freight enhancements as part of Sir Peter Hendy’s proposals for the replanning of Network Rail’s enhancement portfolio.   

Although the organisation welcomed the confirmation that freight schemes will continue, the timescales for completing projects under the Strategic Freight Network fund has been extended by up to five years.

In particular, the upgrade of the Felixstowe branch line has been deferred with physical work not now programmed to start until 2019.  

Simpson said: “Rail links are already running at capacity, yet one extra train a day to and from the Port of Felixstowe could keep 30,000 lorries a year off the road. 

“We need urgent discussion now with Network Rail and government to identify options for running more trains in the short term, and for ensuring the earliest possible delivery of key schemes.” 


Neil Palmer   27/11/2015 at 22:34

How about an Ipswich South Parkway station where the A14 crosses the main line to London (probably useful by itself). Then run a high quality guaranteed connection coach (with free WiFi) along the A14 to Felixstowe to replace the scheduled trains from Ipswich to Felixstowe outside of the morning/evening peaks to free up paths for more freight. Set the ticket price for the connecting rail/coach from Ipswich via Ipswich South Parkway the same as the direct Ipswich-Felixstowe rail price. The port and rail freight companies could help sponsor the cost of running the connecting coach service. Of course the flaw in the plan there is it would probably require 10 interminable years of "planning approval" (the UK disease) to build Ipswich South Parkway, so alternately just get off the pot and double the track from Westerfield already. It should have been done years ago !

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