Coal decline continues as intermodal hits new highs

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Intermodal traffic growth has continued to make up some of the shortfall from the decline in coal volumes, according to the UK’s latest rail freight statistics.

The ORR’s 2016-17 Q4 rail freight usage figures show the volume of domestic intermodal freight moved in the UK rose by 8.9 per cent on the previous period and represented 39 per cent of all rail freight moved in 2016 – its highest share since 1998-99.

Domestic intermodal and construction combined made up 60 per cent of all freight moved during the Q4 period, partially offsetting the decline in coal, oil and petroleum volumes. The figures show that 70 per cent of the freight transported in Q4 was carried by just two operators: DB Cargo UK and Freightliner Intermodal.

The total volume of rail freight moved fell by 3 per cent to 17.2 billion net tonne kilometres in 2016-17. Coal saw the biggest reduction, a decrease of 39 per cent on the previous year to 1.4 billion net tonne kilometres.

Industry body Freight on Rail said it had been a year of transition as the industry “adjusts to the deep decline in coal traffic”.

Philippa Edmunds, Freight on Rail manager, Campaign for Better Transport, said: “Rail freight is the safer, cleaner way to transport freight which reduces road congestion and improves productivity; furthermore, it can help the Government meet its challenging targets to reduce air pollution as it produces 90 per cent less PM10 particulates and up to 15 times less nitrogen dioxide emissions than HGVs for the equivalent journey.

“Given these socio-economic benefits, the Government must set affordable charges in its current ORR review and continue to upgrade the rail freight network to cater for the suppressed demand for consumer and bulk services.”

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