June 09, 2017

British rail freight decline continues

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Coal traffic continued to contract during 2016-17 as electricity companies switched to other forms of generation. Coal traffic continued to contract during 2016-17 as electricity companies switched to other forms of generation. Keith Barrow

THE steep decline in demand for coal continued to erode rail freight traffic in Britain during the 2016-17 financial year, according to statistics published by the Office of Rail and Road on June 8.

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.

UK freight graph LARGE

Source: ORR

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