4,702 PATHS per week allocated to freight services have been relinquished following a comprehensive timetable review by Network Rail and freight operators.

The two-year review has examined which paths could be made available for other operators, freeing up capacity. Of the 4,702 paths, 3,684 have been completely removed from the timetable, while the remainder are deemed to have strategic value and will be safeguarded by Network Rail for future strategic freight growth.

NR says the capacity switch will not lead to any reductions in the numbers of freight trains running on the network.

It attributes the spare capacity to the decline in coal, iron and steel traffic and the fact that freight operators are running longer, fuller, heavier trains and fewer part-loaded trains.

NR says many coal paths in the North East, Scotland and South Wales have been removed, as well as paths on the West Coast main line. Some of these have already been taken up by passenger operators. It also reports that the number of unused freight paths in the last quarter was around 20%, the lowest value ever recorded.