Construction and domestic intermodal lead rail freight upturn

There has been an upturn in the amount of freight carried by rail, according to figures released by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

ORR statistics for July-September 2017 (Q2, 2017-18), released on December 21, state that the total volume of rail freight moved during Q2 increased to 4.3 billion net tonne kilometres.

Construction and domestic intermodal both recorded record volumes of 1.13 billion and 1.72 billion net tonne kilometres respectively, during this period. ORR attributes the rise in construction to “increased demand for materials for housing repair and maintenance being moved by rail freight”, while the domestic intermodal increase “may be driven by growth in the retail sector increasing demand for goods moved by rail freight”.

Together, the two commodities accounted for around two-thirds of rail freight moved in Q2 2017-18. This is compared with Q2 2013-14, when the same commodities accounted for 44% of rail freight moved.

Meanwhile, the once-dominant commodity of coal continues to decline, falling 13% in Q2 2017-18 compared with the corresponding three-month period in 2016-17, against a 23% rise in ‘other’, which includes biomass and mail. ORR says the decline “follows policy decisions to switch to more renewable fuel sources that have greatly reduced the use and transportation of coal over the last four years”.

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