THE COLLAPSE in the market for power station coal drove two of rail freight’s major players into the red during 2016-17, according to the latest Rail Industry Monitor report from analyst PTI Services.

The amount of coal moved by rail has fallen from eight billion tonne kilometres in 2013-14 to just 1.5 billion in 2016-17. Analysis of the statutory accounts of operating companies shows that while costs fell, they fell at less than half the rate of revenue, meaning operating profits were largely wiped out. Overall, an operating loss of £12.1 million was recorded, compared with a £41 million profit the previous year.

DB Cargo retained the largest market share at 46.2%, followed by Freightliner at 31.3%. GB Railfreight grew its share to 14.9%, as did Direct Rail Services to 7.6%.

The report’s author, Chris Cheek, believes it is not all doom and gloom for the sector: ‘Despite the loss of the coal traffic, rail held on to a market share of more than 10% of freight moved in 2015 – the last time this was achieved was in the early 1980s. Meanwhile, container traffic moved has grown by more than 70% in the last decade.’

The report can be found at