The amount of freight carried by rail was at its lowest for 22 years during lockdown, figures published by the Office of Rail and Road on September 24 reveal.
However, performance improved due to the reduction in passenger trains running, with 97% of freight trains arriving within 15 minutes of the scheduled arrival time.
The figures for April-June 2020 (Q1, 2020-21) showed that total freight moved in the quarter was 3.16 billion net tonne kilometres (ntk). Freight train kilometres fell 26% (to 6.3 million kilometres) compared with the corresponding period last year.
In terms of commodities moved, coal suffered the biggest drop in Q1 2020-21 (down 42.9 percentage points), although that remains consistent with longer-term trends. Meanwhile, international traffic dropped 39.9pp compared with the corresponding quarter last year, to its lowest quarterly level since 2007-08.
The construction sector was the hardest hit, falling 0.5bn ntk (37.5pp) from Q1 2019-20. Its market share for rail fell from 28% to 24% - its lowest for four years.
For the FULL story, read RAIL 915, published on October 7, and available digitally from October 3.