Limping on: Greenburn opencast, operated by Kier, is one of only two coal loading locations to remain active in Scotland. On 18 May 2017, No 66701 is seen approaching Boig road crossing on the freight-only line near New Cumnock while working the empty 4S66 06.49 Tyne Coal Terminal to Greenburn. The train would later work to Cottam power station.
Stuart Fowler

THE AMOUNT of rail freight moved in 2016-17 was 17.2 billion net tonne kilometres, the lowest since the late 1990s, according to statistics from the Office of Rail and Road.

This represented a reduction of 3% on the previous year. Coal continued its inexorable decline with a 39% fall to 1.4 billion net tonne kilometres of the commodity moved during the year. The commodity represented just 8% of all freight moved by rail.

Domestic intermodal (39%) recorded the biggest share of freight moved, followed by construction (25%). These were the only two commodities to see an increase during the year, and both recorded their highest levels of freight moved since the time series began in 1998-99. International traffic was down by 9%, oil and petroleum by 3%, metals by 2% and the ‘other’ category by 8%.

During Q4 of 2016-17 (January to March), the amount of freight moved increased by 5% compared to the same period the previous year. As well as rises for domestic intermodal and construction traffic, metals and international recorded increases compared to the early part of 2016. Construction and domestic intermodal combined accounted for just over 60% of total freight moved during the three-month period.

The amount of freight lifted (the mass of goods carried) during 2016-17 was 79.4 million tonnes, 8% down on the previous year and the lowest amount since 1984-85, when the miners’ strike savaged loadings. The amount of coal lifted fell by 39% year-on-year.

The total number of freight train kilometres fell by 3% to 34 million during 2016-17, the lowest amount recorded since the time series began in 2010-11. During Q4, there was a 3% rise compared to the same period the previous year, driven chiefly by an increase at DB Cargo. ORR says the freight derailment near Lewisham on 24 January resulted in some operators using longer diversionary routes, partly explaining the increase, and this affected DB Cargo the most.

The number of freight train movements recorded in 2016-17 was 224,000, the lowest since the start of the time series in 2003-04, and 5% less than the previous year. Freight delay per 100 train kilometres increased by 0.1% over the year to 10.8 minutes, although the general trend over the past decade has been an improving one.

Stockpile site: one of the two remaining Scottish coal loading points is Killoch, where coal comes in from opencast mines in the area by road, before moving south of the border in bulk coal trains. On 18 May 2017, No 66712 is seen at Killoch with a train being loaded with coal for Drax power station.
Stuart Fowler