A massive timetable shakeup is being implemented after Britain’s railfreight industry collaborated over a two-year, industry-wide review into more efficient freight operations.
Together, Network Rail and freight operators identified 50 per cent of the reserved slots on the railway for freight trains were not being used and could potentially be given up for thousands of new passenger and railfreight services.
Railfreight and Network Rail collaboration
Per week, 4,702 allocated ‘paths’ – the slots a railfreight train has on the railway and in the timetable – have been relinquished, freeing-up much needed capacity on the rail network. They could become available for all train operators to run additional services on a daily basis or re-time existing services to reduce congestion and improve reliability.
- The unprecedented decline in coal traffic over the last two years, and a dip in iron and steel
- More efficient freight operations including running longer, fuller, heavier trains
- Savvy timetabling and better freight industry productivity, running fewer, part-loaded freight trains, reducing wasted capacity
Meanwhile, construction and intermodal freight traffic is growing on the rail network and additional paths are needed in order to support the economy across Britain.
1,000 of the removed paths have been safeguarded for future strategic freight growth, which is essential to allow for expected increases in key freight markets. The rail freight market can have the confidence that future traffic growth can take place without being hindered by the need to always build additional capacity.
Paul McMahon, Network Rail’s managing director for freight and national passenger operators said: “It is important the whole rail industry works together to make best use of existing capacity, to minimise the need for additional expensive capacity enhancement schemes.
“This is a real win-win and has truly been a collaborative piece of work with the freight operators. Capacity has been freed up for the whole railway but essential capacity is reserved for freight operators. This is important given the need to support the growth of freight on the network to support the economy.”
Russell Mears, chief executive of Freightliner and Chair of the Rail Delivery Group Freight Group, said: “The freight operators and Network Rail have worked together in an effective and pragmatic way for the wider industry good.
Whilst retaining some key paths as strategic capacity to support future freight growth the release of other residual paths is essential in helping the government get the best value for money from our capacity constrained railway.”
Railfreight trains deliver goods all over the country, taking 7.6 million lorry journeys off the road each year. Rail links are vital to business and communities; new rail lines unlock growth, jobs and housing.
Passenger numbers have doubled in the last 20 years and demand is accelerating at levels last seen more than 100 years ago. Rail freight is also booming, showing a 70% increase since the mid-1990s. But because of this growth in demand, large parts of the network are full and we are facing delays and congestion.
- 4,702 unused freight paths have now been relinquished by Freight Operating Companies
- Of these 4,702 paths, 3,684 have been completely removed from the timetable
- These relinquished paths could potentially see thousands of new services (both passenger and freight) on the railway per year
- 1,018 paths have been deemed to have strategic value and will be developed further by Network Rail
- There are currently 4,967 freight paths in the Working Time Table (WTT). Around 20 per cent of these were unused in the last quarter, the lowest value ever recorded
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 the released paths hav…
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