Freight operators seek to secure sector’s interests
Freight groups have warned the Government that structural reforms within Network Rail must benefit freight shippers as well as passengers.
Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling’s plans for operational management to align with franchises has raised concern that freight interests could be marginalised.
Rail Freight Group Executive Director Maggie Simpson said: “Freight customers may not be as vocal as passengers, but they share a common desire for a high-performing and cost-effective railway which delivers for their needs. Government’s recently published rail freight strategy recognises this, and we look forward to working together on the details of these proposals to ensure that they are a success for everyone.”
The RFG is asking Government to ensure that any changes include: ■ Strengthening NR’s Freight Route to promote freight interests across the network. ■ A powerful National System Operator with responsibility for timetabling, capacity management and co-ordination of engineering work. ■ A framework incentivising franchises to support growth in rail freight, including new terminals and services. ■ A regulatory structure refocused on protecting the needs of nonincumbent operators and their customers. ■ Absolute requirement to maintain the national rail network in a fit condition for rail freight.
The Freight Transport Association also expressed caution. Head of Rail Freight Policy Chris MacRae said: “Most freight flows across a Network Rail route boundary, so it is important that it is not treated as second class in any rail reform that more closely aligns passenger franchises with infrastructure delivery.
“The establishment of the Network Rail Freight and National Passenger Operators Route was supposed to be Network Rail’s’ response to ensure freight can operate across route borders, and what is really important now is that it is correctly empowered in any further structural changes to deal with this.
“While the structure of the railways in itself isn’t a direct concern for our shipper members, they most certainly care about what the outputs of the structure deliver if they are to continue to use rail or use it more as a part of their supply chains.”
Freight campaign groups warn that the needs of the freight operators must not be dismissed under structural changes announced by Chris Grayling. On December 7, GB Railfreight 66743 leaves the loop at Heely (near Sheffield) with the 1051 Tinsley Yard-Coton Hill aggregates train.