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Rail freight volumes fall - but the decline slows

The total volume of rail freight moved in Britain in 2017-18 fell by 1.7% from the previous 12-month period, to 17 billion tonne-kilometres.

The figures were revealed in the latest statistics released by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) on June 7. It is the lowest total since the late 1990s, although still higher than in the mid-1990s.

The total amount of freight lifted also fell, by 5.6% to 75 million tonnes, as did the number of freight train movements (down 3.5% to 216,000, the lowest since 2003-04).

Domestic intermodal now the represents the biggest freight traffic sector, accounting for 40% of the total, followed by construction 25%, metals 8%, coal 7%, petroleum 6%, international 3% and other goods 10%.

However, domestic intermodal traffic fell by 1.4% to 6.7 billion net tonne-km. Metals dropped by 5.4% to 1.4 billion net tonne-km, oil and petroleum were down 5% to 1.1 billion net tonne-km, and other goods by 0.3% to 1.7 billion net tonne-km. Increases were recorded by international traffic (12.7% compared with the previous year) and construction (up 1.5%).

In the fourth quarter of 2017-18 (Q4, 2017-18, January to March), only international traffic recorded an increase - it rose by 23% to 140 million net tonne-km, with all other sectors recording falls in volume. 

  • For the FULL story, read RAIL 855, published on June 20, and available digitally on Android/iPad from June 16.

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