COVER STORY: Coal’s decline the primary cause of freight’s troubles

GBRf 66715 passes Carlisle on May 21 2015, with a northbound coal train. RICHARD CLINNICK.

Looking at the figures for the fourth quarter of 2015-16 (January-March, Q4 2015-16), the Office of Rail and Road said the total amount of freight moved reached 4.2 billion net tonne kilometres (ntkm) - 1.6 billion ntkm less than for Q4 2014-15 (down 27.4%). 

The biggest reason for this was coal, which fell 1.4 billion ntkm. The amount of coal moved (0.46 billion ntkm) was the lowest in any quarter since the start of the time series in 1998-99. 

In Q4, Domestic Intermodal accounted for the largest proportion of total freight moved (1.6 billion ntkm, 37.0%), followed by Construction (0.9 billion ntkm, 22.5%). Overall, five of the seven commodities recorded a decrease in Q4 2015-16 compared with Q4 2014-15 (see panel). Only Other (this category includes biomass, which has increased as power station generators are converted from coal to biomass) and Oil and Petroleum recorded an increase. 

  • For much more on this, read RAIL 803, published today (June 8).

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  • Quincy - 12/06/2016 10:47

    Coal is a bogeyman.The EU has ordained it isn't welcome.The UK politicians wants to be as green as it can be..And its old fashioned. What we need are heavy trucks on rail...but we cant restrict size and the politicians don't have the will to look at this .

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  • FrankH - 27/06/2016 22:11

    The coal tax (can't remember what it's called) was the final nail in the coffin of king coal and rail transporting it here. Wonderful idea to put an additional tax on a industry that was already struggling to compete with imported coal. The economics of a madhouse. China burns it for fun in their industries and India is spending millions opening coal mines and putting railheads in them to reduce there dependancy on imported coal.

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