Freight op­er­a­tors seek to se­cure sec­tor’s in­ter­ests

Rail (UK) - - Network News -

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.

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