Plans to introduce a national rail freight growth target could be heavily undermined unless operators are given a fairer deal on track access charges and improved network performance.
That is according to senior industry leaders who, faced by mounting costs and a rising number of cancellations, are calling on the rail regulator to adopt “a more pragmatic approach” to its proposals for Control Period 7 (April 2024-March 2029).
This includes a U-turn on track access charges which, under current plans from the Office of Rail and Road, are set to rise in real terms (in addition to annual inflationary increases) by nearly 25% by the end of the decade.
This compares with a freeze in track access charges for the first two years of Control Period 6, followed by an average increase of 4.5% in each of the following three years.
Meanwhile, freight operators would also like to see more ambitious performance targets being set for Network Rail, ahead of the ORR’s publication of its Final Determination for CP7 next month.
It follows a five-fold increase in freight train cancellations from 2,492 in 2021-22 to 12,708 in 2022-23.
These figures, released under a Freedom of Information request filed by City A.M, have been primarily attributed to industrial action (despite freight operators not being parties to the dispute), severe weather, and infrastructure failures.
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