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Freight demand grows by 80 weekly trains

Britain is filling 80 more freight trains per week compared to this time last year as a result of a steadily increasing demand in the last decade, Network Rail research shows.

There has been a 75% uplift in the volume of consumer goods travelling by train since 2005, calling for more links to major UK ports to support foreign trade and longer trains to carry greater loads.

Network Rail’s director of freight, Paul McMahon, said: “We’re continuing to work on increasing capacity for more freight trains, making the network more efficient to allow longer trains to carry more containers, and importantly separating flows of passenger and freight traffic.”

McMahon, writing for RTM’s June/July edition, had revealed that freight services bring in economic benefits of £1.6bn to the nation, estimated to grow to £2bn by 2023 with continued investment.

Phil Murphy, Royal Mail network operations director, added that rail also forms a “crucial part” of the company’s integrated logistics network.

“Using rail is an effective way to help reduce the time and cost of transporting mail across large distances across the country,” he said.

In June, ministers suggested that rail freight growth could be achieved by expanding schemes to carry goods on underused passenger services.

Rail minister Claire Perry MP said partnerships like that between East Midlands Trains and logistics firm 5-PL for carrying low-bulk good on passenger trains could be extended.

She said at the time: “Passenger airlines can earn extra revenue by carrying goods, so if passenger trains have off-peak services with very few passengers, why should they not make use of available space to offer a parcel service?”

One of the three finalists in the Tomorrow’s Train Design Today competition, an RSSB and Network Rail-funded FutureRailway programme with the DfT, had even come up with an ‘adaptable carriage’ with automatic stowage and moveable seating.

This would allow seats to be automatically moved to allow room for freight when passenger occupancy levels were low.

In our Aug/Sept 15 edition, RTM interviewed Philippa Edmunds, manager of Freight on Rail, who said the road haulage industry is propped up by a mass of hidden subsidies affecting the competitiveness of rail freight.

In order for the economy and society to get the best freight solutions, she said, there needs to be a level playing field within road and rail freight transport policy.

She told us: “Each year the rail freight industry carries goods worth over £30bn, ranging from high-end whiskies and luxury cars to supermarket products, steel, cement and coal. A quarter of consumer goods imported into the UK are transported by rail.

“A fair deal for rail freight would be a win/win for the economy, society and the planet.”


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