Rail Freight

On the way out: on 5 December 2017 GB Railfreight’s No 66743 passes Freemans Crossing, south east Northumberland, with 21 loaded coal hoppers, working 6F64, the 11.32 North Blyth to Cottam power station loaded coal train. Coal stocks are dwindling at Battleship Wharf, North Blyth, as the Banks Mining open cast sites that supply it by lorry, Shotton and Cramlington/Seaton Burn, are due to close soon.
Bill Welsh

THE VOLUME of rail freight moved in Quarter 2 of 2017 (July to September) was 2% higher than the previous year, according to data from the Office of Rail and Road.

In what will be seen as good news for the freight sector after a period of consistently declining traffic driven by reduced demand for coal, ORR reports 4.3 billion net tonne kilometres was moved during the three-month period. The two largest categories, domestic intermodal and construction, both grew to reach record highs. These categories now account for around two-thirds of all freight moved, compared to 44% in Q2 of 2013. Also reversing a decline was international traffic, with record levels of cross-channel freight seeing 10% growth during the quarter, while the ‘other’ category saw volumes up by 28%.

In a complete reversal of fortunes, coal traffic declined by a further 13% to hit a record low and saw less freight moved than any other commodity; it previously accounted for the largest amount of freight moved by rail. There was a 6% decline for metals and 3% for oil and petroleum.

However, the mass of freight lifted fell by 3% to 18.4 million tonnes during the quarter, the lowest amount recorded in a three-month period. Unlike freight moved, this measure takes no account of the distance travelled.

Freight performance worsened, with the average freight delay increasing by 15% year-on-year to 11.9 minutes per 100 train kilometres. The Freight Delivery Metric also indicated fewer freight trains were arriving at their final destination within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival time compared to the same quarter last year.

The total volume of freight train kilometres recorded during the quarter was eight million, the lowest for the summer period since the start of this time series in 2010, although the amount was only slightly down on the 2016-17 figure. Both DB Cargo and Freightliner Heavy Haul recorded their lowest volumes since the start of the time series, although four out of seven operators saw growth, including GB Railfreight (20%), along with Colas Rail and Devon & Cornwall Railways (both 27%)