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Ports want rail freight to operate 365 days a year

Shipping firms and ports are urging an improved rail freight operation, including better pathing and freight running 365 days of the year.

Adrian Jones, managing director of MOL Shipping, told DB Schenker’s third annual port conference on September 3: “Rail needs 365-day operation. Everyone wants their goods the next day.” He highlighted that containers can be delayed as a result of rail freight not running every day.

Freightliner Commercial Director Keith Gray told RAIL:
“I am not sure whether seven days a week is realistic, but certainly moving everything to six should be achievable and will create significantly more capacity.

“At present, the majority of Freightliner intermodal trains complete five round trip journeys per week, and some of those will take six days to complete .

“It has been a target of Freightliner’s for many years now to increase the number of round trip services per week, by maximising otherwise idle rolling stock at weekends. Some success has been achieved, with just over 10% of our services now completing six round trips per week. None achieve seven.

Gray said that access to the network is most important, as Network Rail carries out engineering at weekends. He added that the receivers of goods would also need to open at weekends. Many do not.

“Some ports may have to alter their weekend operating schedules, and shipping lines and forwarders would have to extend their working hours to ensure containers arriving on weekend vessels are cleared and released to travel,” he said.

Maggie Simpson, executive director of the Rail Freight Group, told RAIL: “On 365 days? Absolutely. And 24 hours? Imagine how much more capacity that could create, essentially for free. 

“Where we have diversionary routes available, it really should be possible to co-ordinate plans that achieve it the majority of the time.

“Yet there seems to be no appetite at NR (and in some cases the freight operating companies) to push for it.”

  • This news story was published in RAIL 757 on 17 September 2014

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