The British rail freight industry has experienced double-digit growth over the past year fuelled by the coal, intermodal and construction sectors.

The results mean overall freight tonnage conveyed by rail has broken through the 100 million barrier, although volumes have not yet recovered to the highs of 2007 when the network carried 108 million tonnes of cargo.

In terms of kilometre-tonnes, coal, which accounts for almost half of the market, rose 14.8% to 6.41 billion to the end of March, while construction rose 7.5%, and intermodal rose by 10%. Metal volumes were flat while oil volumes fell 10%.

The figures were released by the UK’s national rail regulator, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), and can be viewed by clicking here.

Commenting on the news, Maggie Simpson of the Rail Freight Group told Lloyd’s Loading “Intermodal has grown consistently since 2003 and I am sure a big part of that has been the gauge clearance work on the big routes.

“Construction has also had a very strong year – it’s best for several years – which is counter-intuitive when you consider that it usually goes up and down with the economy, but there’s been a lot of Olympic-based construction.

“I think that those who do use rail, even those who are seeing overall volumes falling, have been keeping their rail volumes high.”

The news will give cheer to an industry which faces a raft of rail access charges currently proposed by the ORR and previously reported in Lloyd’s Loading

“Some of the charges the ORR are proposing won’t help rail freight, even in those parts of the sector which are not being targeted for very significant increases,” said Simpson.

“The industry needs simple charges that make it easy for customers to calculate costs compared with road freight. We don’t want to make the whole thing so confusing that it puts people off.”

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