The total volume of freight moved fell to its lowest level since the late 1990s, dipping 3% to 17.2 billion net tonne-km. Of the seven commodity groups coal suffered the sharpest drop declining 39% compared with 2015-16 to 1.4 billion net tonne-km.
The total volume of freight lifted dipped 8% to 79.4%, its lowest level since 1984-85, when traffic was hit badly by a lengthy strike by coal miners.
Freight train movements fell 5% to 224,000, while freight train kilometres declined 3% to 34 million-km.
Domestic intermodal is the largest sector, accounting for 39% of freight moved, followed by construction (25%), metals (9%) and coal (8%). Domestic intermodal and construction were the only two commodity groups to experience growth in 2016-17, with freight moved increasing by 6% and 7% respectively.