Are freeports an opportunity for rail?

Rail Freight Group

Ports and rail freight have always been inextricably linked. Whilst the dock railways of old are now mostly heritage sites and luxury flats, the majority of the large ports across the country still have active rail facilities, and it is estimated that at least half of all freight services start or end at a port.

According to the ports trade body UK Major Ports Group, the UK ports industry handles 95% of UK import and export by volume – about 500 million tonnes of freight per year. Despite the large number of ports in the UK, much of the freight traffic is concentrated at the largest ones, with the top 20 ports accounting for 88% of the total. But even within these ports the type and nature of the goods handled is diverse, ranging from petrochemicals, bulk products, steel, cars, agricultural products, foodstuffs and consumer goods.

Rail has a strong presence in onward movement of bulk goods, and containers. In fact, containers are now over 40% of all rail freight movements, mostly from deep sea ports such as Felixstowe, Southampton and London Gateway, which see some of the world’s largest ships on the global circulations from the Far East. Increasingly though, container trains are operating from other ports including Liverpool and Teesport, which are handling increasing amounts of lift-on / lift-off trade. This trend is being helped by businesses switching from accompanied HGV movements to the UK and instead looking to other supply routes.

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